Reporters now in the business of diagnosing people

A story in the Toronto Star today about an intruder at the Olympics opens with this:

VANCOUVER–A mentally ill man managed to breach security and get within metres of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Friday, the RCMP has revealed.

If you go on to read the rest of the story you’ll probably conclude that the man involved–whose intentions were evidently harmless–probably isn’t playing with a full sack of marbles. Nevertheless, there is no indication that the Mounties or anyone else had accurate information on the man’s medical or psychiatric history. This being the case, it is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to classify the guy as “mentally ill.” It’s no more a reporter’s job to make this call than it is to convict someone on trial. Hey, I may not have the hots for Joe Biden, but technically I’m mentally ill. Maybe Petti Fong is taking new patients?