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East Fort Worth's reputation smeared by bad reporting

East Fort Worth is a victim, all right.

But not of crime.

East Fort Worth is the victim of the compound mistakes by some local TV reporters -- and fumbling at City Hall.

First, broadcast stations ran out of control with a blurb about how part of central Fort Worth is ranked the 15th "most dangerous neighborhood" in America by a Rhode Island outfit that peddles neighborhood data reports.

NeighborhoodScout.com cranked some numbers and found a high crime rate in a mostly freeway-locked zone east of Interstate 35W that is home to a public-housing complex and the East Lancaster Avenue shelters.

Somehow, KXAS/Channel 5 and other broadcast stations stretched the label "East Lancaster Avenue" to include everybody and everything in east Fort Worth, including all eight miles of East Lancaster.

KXAS corrected its Web report late Thursday. But an accompanying commentary by a Dallas writer still described the dangerous neighborhood as "close to" the TV's station on Broadcast Hill, adding melodramatically, "Don't worry about any of the station hands."

The station is four miles from the nearest border of the "dangerous" zone.

A TV report also showed neighborhoods that share a ZIP code with the zone. (Apparently, the reporter never looked at the map on the website.

Other TV and radio coverage repeated the mistake without checking. So did we.)

Then, as if that hadn't done enough damage, City Hall dragged the story back into the news.

Instead of sending a one-line reply -- say, something along the lines of: "Check the map, chump! It's one little square mile, and we don't think even that's right!" -- City Hall issued an overly defensive response about how "public safety is paramount" and how 190 Citizens on Patrol groups volunteer, blah, blah.

City Council member Kathleen Hicks wanted the press release issued, which meant that reporters repeated the "Lancaster dangerous neighborhood" mistake, meaning more attention.

Hicks said she felt like she had to respond.

"Even in that small area by the shelters, crime has gone down," she said.

Miles from the "danger," sponsors and restaurants are hoping for a crowd at HandleyFest on Saturday in the historic old town east of Loop 820. The festival is set up along Handley Drive between Meadowbrook Drive and, oh my, East Lancaster.

"We've had people ask whether it's safe," Director Iris Bruton said.

"It's such a setback when we've done so much here. We have nice shops and restaurants."

Maybe somebody should report that.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Twitter @budkennedy

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