OPINION | Barry Richard: Lazy Local TV News Defames New Bedford Area
This morning my buddy John in the sales department says to me, "Every morning when I turn on Channel 10 there's been another stabbing or shooting in New Bedford." John lives in Providence. They don't have crime in Rhode Island. Just ask anyone who lives there. My response to John was, "Yeah, that's because they don't have shootings in Providence." He replied, "Yeah, but not like in New Bedford."
I married a Rhode Island girl and when her extended family members found out that we moved to New Bedford they suggested we invest in bulletproof vests. They hail from Pawtucket and Central Falls, two more bastions of civility.
I like John. Cool guy. Good salesman. Wonderful citizen and family man. But, John, like many who don't live here, is under the delusion that New Bedford is less safe than anywhere else in the region, including Providence. John tells me, "Nobody out that way comes here." I'm not certain that's true exactly. I mean you see a lot of Rhode Island plates cruising for drugs and other nefarious activities on our fine streets. They come here too, even from Cranston, because the Massachusetts sales tax is lower than Rhode Island's.
John's comments led me to do a quick Google on crime in Rhode Island. Keep in mind that Massachusetts is significantly larger than Rhode Island and that Providence is a bigger city than New Bedford. The most recent stats I could find were for 2016 in which Rhode Island had a murder rate of 2.7 per 100,000 residents. Massachusetts had a rate of 2 per 100,000 residents. New Bedford recorded 3 homicides in 2016. In fairness, that rate more than doubled last year in what was believed to have been a fluke. By the way, the national murder rate was 5.3 per 100,000.
The point is this, the news media, especially television makes its money by exploiting misery. New Bedford is no more violent than Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Brockton, Boston, Worcester or Lawrence. But, if Channel 10 says that it is people will believe it.
Car crashes and crime scene tape make good video and good video leads the TV news. It can severely harm an area by creating a perception that is out of step with reality. That's just lazy and shoddy reporting.
My advice, shut off Channel 10 and come and enjoy New Bedford and all of what it has to offer.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.