OMFG Here Come The ‘News’ Outlets To Do ShotSpotter’s PR Heavy Lifting For It


from the if-it-wasn’t-Fox,-it-would-have-been-the-New-York-Post dept

Generally speaking, a private company’s press release is not “news.” If anyone wants to watch companies stroke themselves off in public, there are plenty of sites dedicated to that kink.

If it’s cop tech purveyors seeking to redeem themselves after a bunch of negative press and/or the loss of high-profile government contracts, we should be even more suspicious of “reporting” that simply regurgitates PR rep statements with headlines that suggest this is something the rabble should be paying attention to.

Utilizing little more than a self-serving video served up by ShotSpotter itself, a Chicago Fox affiliate attempts to turn a tech company’s desperate self-preservation into an implicit suggestion that Chicago is doomed (DOOMED!) if it allows its contract with an under-performing cop tech service provider expire later this year.

Former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson appeared in a video this week supporting ShotSpotter, a technology designed to identify the location of gunfire incidents. 

The video was posted on the website saveshotspotter.com, where Johnson emphasized the system’s role in preventing crime in Chicago neighborhoods.

In this video, the former police official claims ShotSpotter reliably detects gunshots, that it helped prioritize patrol patterns, and (literally unbelievably) made the city safer. (It apparently does not reliably detect gunshots, unless the only experts you ask are those employed by ShotSpotter.)

According to the former CPD official, “you can’t put a price on public safety.” But that’s obviously not true. Budgets have to be passed every year and the price (as it were) of public safety is whatever is thrown in that general direction from year to year by local governments. But very little of that outlay has anything to do with making the public safer — not when it’s being thrown at the Chicago PD and its suite of questionable tech.

In September, the city’s contract with ShotSpotter will expire. This has been prompted by ShotSpotter’s utter uselessness in decreasing gun crime. It’s not just me saying that. It’s also the city’s Inspector General’s Office, which had this to say about the shoddy shot spotting the city’s been paying ShotSpotter to provide:

The CPD data examined by OIG does not support a conclusion that ShotSpotter is an effective tool in developing evidence of gun-related crime.

If it doesn’t work, there’s no reason to keep paying for it. Hence the September contract expiration.

While this “reporting” from Fox 32’s Jenna Carroll does link to the site’s previous reporting on ShotSpotter, it does not actually link to the site where this recording by the former CPD Superintendent is posted. I will link to it so you can see the entirety of it yourself.

This site dedicated to “saving” ShotSpotter in Chicago contains nothing more than a link to third-party form that allows visitors to express their support of ShotSpotter to Chicago lawmakers, the aforementioned video recorded by Eddie Johnson (the site says nothing about any compensation), and a copyright notice at the bottom of the page:

@All Rights Reserved. SoundThinking, Inc.

It’s not a grassroots effort. Fortunately, it’s not even astroturf. The company behind the site makes it clear right up front (albeit all the way at the bottom of the page, rather than via an “About” page or something more visitors are likely to see) who’s doing this: SoundThinking. That would be ShotSpotter’s new-ish name — one apparently chosen because it had run its own reputation into the ground.

So, this isn’t news. And it’s not even as coherent or content-filled as an average press release. This is just “reporters” fielding emails from ShotSpotter’s PR and deciding there’s nothing wrong with combining fear-mongering with site churn.

And it’s not just the Fox affiliate. Here’s NBC being just as subservient:

A former Chicago police superintendent is leading an effort to keep ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system, in Chicago as the city’s contract with the technology’s provider is set to expire later this year.

“People are uneducated about what ShotSpotter really is,” former CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said.

However, unlike Fox, NBC at least has the honesty to add this to its reporting of ShotSpotter’s latest desperation move:

As part of his effort, Johnson has offered his voice to a lobbyist-led website, saveshotspotter.com.

Good to know. Unsurprisingly, the Fox affiliate’s “reporting” makes no mention of this fact, instead focusing on the “positive” aspects of ShotSpotter — at least as portrayed by supporters of the tech like Eddie Johnson.

And this seems to be as much about the former CPD superintendent as it is about ShotSpotter. ShotSpotter’s tech was rolled out under Johnson’s watch. Four years later, the Office of the Inspector General was calling it useless. These are two entities seeking to rehabilitate their reputations: ShotSpotter and its champion in Chicago, CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Whatever. Let them try. Just don’t help them by presenting their self-serving efforts as “news.”

Filed Under: chicago, eddie johnson, gunshot detection

Companies: fox news, shotspotter, soundthinking

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