Star Tribune reporter Tased

Star Tribune reporter Tased

As if things weren't bad enough for the reporters over at the struggling Star Tribune, now the hacks are getting Tased!

While it probably beats being forced to appear on NewsBreak, the daily newspaper's foray into really awkward internet television, the amiable Pat Pheifer must have drawn the newsroom short straw this week because she agreed to get shot with a stun gun.

Actually, this is a fairly common journalistic gimmick these days, the modern equivalent of the hoary police ride along. The cops shock the reporter in a controlled circumstance, which makes for a great story for the scribe, and free p.r. for the po-po.

But in this case, I think there's some serious journalistic problems with the execution. In doing a puff piece, Pheifer lets a source get away with a whopper and carries an interest group's water.

 The part that gives me problems is this:

Pheifer: So why are they such a controversial weapon?

Cop: I think people associate electricity with the term electrocution. Electrocution in people's minds is always deadly, its always fatal. So they make that jump in their minds, that's why it's become controversial. This is putting out way less power than any electricution situation that people have ever seen. And that's where they make that jump and that's just not fair for this weapon.

Jump cut to Pfeiffer getting shocked again, as if to demonstrate that what the officer says is true. Looks like the worst thing that can happen from getting Tased is a pull in your sweater.

But there are very real instances of people getting killed by Tasers, either because of some congenital heart problem or being under the influence of drugs. In fact, it happened here back in December to former DJ Quincy Smith. As we wrote at the time:

Since June 2001, more than 320 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police tasers, according to Amnesty International.

Why are Tasers such a controversial weapon? Because this supposedly non-lethal weapon has killed 320 people. Luckily, none of them were reporters.

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