1) I live on the first floor, so there would be no point.
Pre-Katrina my husband Jeff and I lived on the second floor. Then we lived in Illinois, second floor again, while my parents both succumbed to the long goodbye of Alzheimer’s Disease. Then we shared a house with Dr. John while everybody was making it back to the city. Now we live in the French Quarter in a Creole cottage that I leave as little as possible. Having the bottom drop out of life turns you into a couch-hugger once you find a couch that tends to remain in place. It’s a long story.
2) The stories from New Orleans still need to be told.
New Orleans is a tale of 200,000 cities. That’s how many people were left in New Orleans post-Katrina. After the diaspora, each of them became a city unto themselves. And each has lived a lifetime in the last 10 years. Heartbreak and suicide was epidemic in the first years of returnees, and we’ve all been to far too many funerals, as joyous as a New Orleans funeral can become. But there’s a new wave. New Orleans has experienced a youthquake of transplants and their accompanying gentrification, and the zeitgeist of this city takes years to understand, if you ever really do. Storytelling is a part of sharing that legacy. In the last two days I’ve heard buskers playing both The Carpenters and The Eagles. If our stories don’t get out there, forget about hearing Danny Barker’s ‘You Gotta Get Yourself a Job Girl” or Huey Piano Smith’s “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say” on any given Saturday stroll.
3) After 10 years, thanks must be given.
It’s not possible to list how many people reached out to help New Orleans in the last 10 years. On 8/30/2005 Jeff wanted to help the musicians he had played with his whole life knowing that they, and possibly we, had lost everything. I remember trying to talk him out of it from a hotel room in Chicago. It seemed like something more people would do if it was possible. But he remained undeterred and we hit the road for The New Orleans Musicians RElief Fund. We couldn’t come home for months, and it helped to think of someone beside yourself. Wilco played a benefit in Chicago that funded the first major grants and our charity kicked into action.
4) No, really. People are wonderful.
Even once the recession, BP Oil Spill and what has felt like a never-ending series of disasters hit, instruments never stopped coming. Grand pianos, violins, trombones, trumpets, drum sets, percussion for kids, keyboards, guitars, guitar stands, marching band drums, band uniforms, a band car, a second car when the first car was stolen, housing, gig clothes, an Italian concertina for Johnny Sansone who’s so big he made it look like a thimble … to this day I am in awe of the generosity of spirit that met New Orleans in its darkest days. Last year a donor found a rare French clarinet in his Bourbon Street attic. It may not have been played in 100 years. Brilliant New Orleans clarinetist Rickey Paulin accepted it, and it’s being restored. As he said, “I’ve GOT to play that thing!”
5) Music helps get you through anything.
Endless Katrina footage getting you down? Listen to songs about it instead. Two years into New Orleans recovery, musicians donated tracks to ReDefine 8/29. Everyone from R.E.M. with a live track to the dB’s to New Orleans’ own James Andrews. Upon the compilation of national and international songs of recovery’s release, David Fricke of Rolling Stone gave it a four star review. Our local heroes often go unsung, so I’ve always been proud of Jeff for finding so many Katrina songs that resonated. The download tracks have reverted back to the original artists, but you can hear it on WHIV-FM on 8/29 at 1 p.m. Central.
6) The coverage – there is just so much of it.
There’s been more long-form Katrina coverage in the last month as there had been in the previous 10 years. Schools, music, food, wetlands, population, — if the saturation from the Katrina 10-year is from some kind of mass media survivor’s guilt for not writing about the city in, say, years 3, 6, 8 or any odd year, I’ll take it. Memes have been blown up, clumsy narratives imploded, numbers have been crunched. I can’t imagine the dent in legacy media and web site budgets from the blanket coverage of the last week, especially in this era of slim media margins. As much as I complain about getting the Katranniversary yips, I’m grateful for the deep dive into the state of the city that not everyone thought was worth saving. Turns out it saved itself.
7) After Saturday, there’s another 10 year break.
So see you back in New Orleans for Katrina 20, national media. In the meantime, the stories never end.
Lagniappe: How’s Your House by Ian Hunter, Video Grewvia for NOMRF:
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In the moments before he took the stage at NBCUniversal’s “A Concert for Hurricane Relief“ on Sept. 2, 2005, Kanye West looked calm.
Up to that point, the charity telethon for Hurricane Katrina’s victims had gone as well as could have been expected, considering that it had been slapped together in a matter of days. That it happened at all was a credit to executive producer Rick Kaplan’s team. Kaplan and his crew had worked hard to make sure things would go smoothly on the set, and celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Harry Connick Jr. and Lindsay Lohan, had agreed to say whatever needed to be said and play whatever needed to be played.
“All the stars we contacted — Aaron Neville, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill — I mean, everyone came in and was willing to do whatever they could do,” Kaplan remembers now. “Everyone was totally cooperative.”
West was cooperating, too. The hip-hop sensation’s second studio album, “Late Registration,” had come out that week. West, who was scheduled to appear on stage alongside comedian Mike Myers, went over his lines with the show’s senior producer and music director, Frank Radice. Like the other celebrities on the telecast, West was slated to provide the audience with facts — the amount of damage brought by Katrina, the amount of relief aid needed, and so on.
Yo, I’m going to ad-lib a little bit.
But by that point, the man whom Time magazine had just named “the smartest man in pop music“ knew the words Radice expected him to say would never make the airwaves.
“Yo, I’m going to ad-lib a little bit,” West later recalled telling Myers just before they took the stage at 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. The duo stepped in front of the camera. Then Myers, hands behind his back, launched into the lines streaming down the teleprompter.
“With the breach of three levees protecting New Orleans, the landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly,” Myers said. “There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods.”
Myers’ opening lines completed, West took a moment and a breath. Hands in his pockets, he cleared his throat, licked his bottom lip, blinked his eyes and opened his mouth.
“I hate the way they portray us in the media,” he said. “If you see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And you know that it’s been five days because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite — because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before, even giving a donation. So now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what’s, what is the biggest amount I can give, and, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help with the set-up, the way America is set up to help the, the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, this is — Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way — and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.”
At that moment, Radice noticed something odd. Until then, he had heard celebrities chattering in the background throughout the show. But now all the famous people had gone quiet. All eyes were fixed on West.
Mark Traub, a senior stage manager for the show, remembers exchanging an “Oh my God” glance with show host Matt Lauer.
Myers looked petrified. The comedian had glanced away from the camera no less than eight times during the minute-plus it took West to deliver his preliminary thoughts. Shaken but still on the air, Myers lifted his right index finger to his face, rubbed below his eye and started through his final lines, this time at a quickened pace.
“And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors’ will to rebuild and remain in the area,” he said. “The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all.”
There was barely a moment between Myers’ final words and the moment the man in the White House would later call the low point of his presidency. It was a moment that would lead to songs and skits, academic debates and calls to change the way Americans think and talk about race.
George Bush doesn’t care about black people.
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” West said. The camera had not cut away in time. Millions of Americans heard his words. A somewhat shaken West walked off stage, leaving actor Chris Tucker to try to follow that and Myers to come to terms with what had just happened.
“He just seemed not appalled but almost flabbergasted,” Radice recalls of Myers. “I’ve always thought Mike might have felt that he got sandbagged,” Radice added.
“Myers looked like he had been shot in the head,” Kaplan said.
Several members of the production team remember Myers turning to whoever would listen off-stage and shouting, “Well, that went well!” (Myers declined to comment for this story.)
The producers were trying to figure out what to think, too. “Everybody kind of went, ‘OK …’ like somebody had just dropped a stinking turd on the stage, and we all kind of backed off and let it sit there for a while and moved on to other things and hoped that nobody really noticed,” Traub remembers now.
One producer, who requested anonymity, told HuffPost he had warned his colleagues before the telecast that West was known for “making everything about himself.”
Afterward, some producers worried West had done just that. “People were not happy,” Traub said. “We had worked our asses off on this,” said Frank Fernandez, an associate producer for the show. “We didn’t even talk about titles. In the credits, that’s when we found out what the titles were.”
I was feeling kind of crestfallen when I walked out.
Rick Kaplan, executive producer of “A Concert for Hurricane Relief”
“I can’t speak for everyone, so I’m going to speak for myself: I wasn’t going to let him take my moment of trying to help and do a great job,” Fernandez added.
The Red Cross, a major recipient of the concert’s donations, was particularly furious about West’s comments and worried that donors would pull their money as a result, according to Kaplan. (The telecast eventually raised more than $50 million.)
“I was feeling kind of crestfallen when I walked out,” Kaplan admits now. “We had worked so hard. The last 72 hours was like no sleep and all work.”
Not everyone was feeling down, though. Before West could leave 30 Rock, Sean “Diddy” Combs, who was present at the telethon but did not appear on air, told West that he would have done the same thing, according to a producer with firsthand knowledge of the interaction. (Diddy declined to comment.)
Harry Connick Jr. went further. The singer and actor, a New Orleans native, had been instrumental in the show’s success, gathering musicians together to figure out last-minute arrangements. After West’s comments, Connick, along with country singers and couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, walked up to Kaplan and told him something the producer would never forget: that West’s comments wouldn’t ruin the show’s legacy but would ensure it had one — that West’s comments were important and correct.
“The three of them took me aside privately and said, ‘[We] know you’re probably upset by what Kanye said, but we’ve all been down there and we promise you that when the dust settles and what Kanye said is thought about and what people learn is learned about, [we] promise you’re going to be proud that Kanye ending up saying that on the show,’” Kaplan remembers. “They said, ‘We were down there, and [we're] telling you it’s not good what the government’s doing there. They’re not being good. They’re not acting properly.’”
“It floored me,” he said. “In the end, Faith and Harry and Tim made my night.”
NBC’s head honchos did not share Kaplan’s sense of relief. Without alerting the show’s top producers, the network decided to cut West’s remarks from a tape of the telethon set to air three hours later on the West Coast. In a tersely worded statement, the network distanced itself from West, stating that “his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks.”
But the news was out. Cable networks dissected and debated West’s comments for days. Conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly, predictably, called West’s remarks “simply nutty.” Rapper 50 Cent disagreed with the comments as well. And as noted, then-President George W. Bush later deemed West’s accusation of racism an “all-time low” of his presidency.
YouTube, which had launched earlier that year, allowed users, many of them young people, to upload, watch, share and discuss the video — and draw their own conclusions. In a recent essay for The Nation, writer Mychal Denzel Smith described West’s comments as the ”first relatable expression of black rage on a national stage“ for a generation of black men and women.
“‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’ was my first political memory,” Julia Craven, now a 22-year-old staff reporter for The Huffington Post, wrote in an email. “I didn’t really understand the nuances behind what Kanye meant by that, but I knew that historically white people didn’t care about black people (mostly because I’m from the south). So it made sense. It was funny more than anything else, though. It never crossed my mind that that was the beginning of Kanye’s politicizing or that we’d look back on Katrina and really understand how spot on that critique was. But I was 12.”
C.J. Lawrence was a law student at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston when Katrina hit. He remembers not being able to contact his family back in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for days after the storm. “We were deeply concerned,” he said.
At the time, Lawrence lived up the street from the Astrodome, where thousands of New Orleans evacuees would come to find shelter.
“I remember driving home one night and seeing a line of, I kid you not, about 10,000 people that were just getting off the buses from Katrina. … You could smell all they had gone through for miles in the air. You could smell it,” he said. “[Katrina victims] didn’t have the dollars to wield to influence a Bush or to influence even their local politicians to move in the way that a Kanye West could get them to move.”
“Hearing Kanye West say what he said in 2005 — a lot of us as young people felt empowered,” Lawrence said. “West in many ways became a champion for us by speaking out nationally in that way.”
Just days after the telethon, a Houston-based hip-hop duo called The Legendary KO released a song titled “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People,” which quickly racked up more than a half-million downloads. (Watch it below.) Damien Randle, one half of the duo, was 31 at the time. “I stood on my couch that evening because I knew that the world would finally hear how others had felt, and it was too late to censor it,” he recalls.
?Gloria Browne-Marshall, an associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College in New York City who teaches a class on race and the law, remembers her shock at hearing about the conditions in which New Orleans’ black community lived even before Katrina.
“The [conditions] that black people were living in, especially in the Ninth Ward — it was deplorable that this was taking place within this country, that they were living so poorly in the first place. And then [once Katrina hit], to see them stranded and being abandoned, treated [as] and called refugees in our own country …,” she trailed off. “I’m not saying Kanye was a hero because he said it. But because he was a celebrity and he had the floor and he said it in a moment where the nation was not really voicing that opinion, I thought it was very significant.”
Some New Orleanians found truth in West’s comments, too.
“Let me tell you something, the man told the truth,” said Glen David Andrews, a prominent trombonist and a fixture in the New Orleans music scene. “We thought he said the right thing. I just wish he slapped the president, too. It’s fucking true. It’s fucking true, isn’t it?”
We thought he said the right thing. I just wish he slapped the president, too.
New Orleans trombonist Glen David Andrews
When people think back to West’s telethon moment, the first thing that comes to mind is his seven-word indictment of the sitting president, a stark memory of one of the world’s most famous artists accusing its most powerful man of racism. Less remembered are the 200-or-so words that came before that — words targeted not at Bush, but at the media: “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’”
In the days following Hurricane Katrina, an image widely circulated on the Internet contrasted two photos and their captions. In one, a white man and a white woman walked through the high waters left by Katrina. The accompanying AFP/Getty caption explained, “Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store …”
In the other photo distributed by The Associated Press, a black youth could be seen in a similar situation. The caption, however, read, “A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store …”
Different agencies wrote the captions. But to many Americans, the contrast between the two represented a larger truth: that the predominantly white media, try as they might to remain evenhanded, were subject to their own racial biases. (An AP spokesman said at the time that the boy fit the description of “looter” since the photographer saw him enter a store to obtain goods.)
Ask Americans now, and it’s hard for them to recall West’s media criticism; they tend to focus on his comments about Bush. In a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in August, just one-third of those with memory of the incident could recall West criticizing the media’s Katrina coverage. Two-thirds of them only remembered West accusing Bush of not caring about black people.
“It wasn’t just a tirade against George Bush,” said Scott Heath, an English professor at Georgia State University who teaches a course on Kanye West. “He was discussing the way that our larger media outlets represent black people in these moments of crisis.”
Ten years on and nearly two terms removed from Bush’s presidency, it’s the criticism of the media that hits home for black Americans. Half of black men and women in the August poll agreed that Bush didn’t care about black people, but two-thirds agreed that the media portray black and white moments of crisis differently.
“It was important for Kanye West and others to highlight that the media has the ability to tell the same story in two very different ways,” said Lawrence, the onetime law student. ?”Being underwater for a week, I’m sure you get hungry, so hungry that you will go into a place where you know there is food and get it — because, one, what’s somebody else going to do with the food, with this food at a flooded Walgreens? And two, it’s either go in there and get the food that you need to get, or die.”
I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says, “They’re looting.” You see a white family, it says, “They’re looking for food.”
Nearly 60 percent of white Americans believe that the media are racially unbiased or biased in favor of minorities, according to the HuffPost/YouGov poll. But evidence to the contrary isn’t limited to anger-inducing anecdotes like the AP’s “looting” photo. A study published in the aftermath of Katrina and based on multiple experiments found evidence that “crime news coverage contributes to racial stereotyping,” lead researcher Travis Dixon said at the time.
Research conducted by Media Matters for America and published in March by the lobbying group ColorOfChange.org showed that local New York City TV stations were disproportionately depicting African-Americans as criminals as recently as this past December. The authors of a separate study published in the International Journal of Communication this year found that they could predict an American’s level of bias against black people by the amount of local TV news he or she watched. Additional research has provided further evidence that TV can influence how viewers generally perceive African-Americans.
“The underlying sentiment that Kanye West expressed 10 years ago demonstrates the current reality of the way that the media covers people of color,” said Charlton McIlwain, an associate professor of media, culture and communication at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. “There are years and mountains of evidence to suggest that over a long period of time — extending to the present moment — media tend to put a black face on crime, particularly violent crime.”
West’s comments, McIlwain said, were “by and large … accurate and on point.”
There are years and mountains of evidence to suggest that … media tend to put a black face on crime, particularly violent crime.
Charlton McIlwain, associate professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School
Today, it’s not clear whether West himself would repeat what he said 10 years ago. After all, he is more careful now and even apologized to Bush in a 2010 interview on NBC’s “Today” show, saying that he “didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist.”
“He has become more media savvy, very media conscious and deliberate in his appearances and in the things he chooses to express at certain points,” Heath, the professor who teaches the course on West, said. “Ten years later, I wonder if even Kanye West would do the same thing, say the same thing. But I think he might.”
Many of the people involved in the benefit concert now recall West’s comments positively. Myers told GQ last year that he was “very proud to have been next to him.” Radice called West’s comments “a phenomenal moment in culture, in history.” Traub, while still perturbed by West’s decision to point the finger so strongly at Bush, agreed that “there was definitely a tremendous problem with the way that African-Americans were treated in that area.”
Kaplan, who was so crestfallen moments after West’s remarks, now looks back on his decision to stray from the script especially fondly.
“When you look at it in hindsight, boy am I glad he did that,” Kaplan said. “['A Concert for Hurricane Relief'] became politically correct [as a result of West's comments]. And I don’t mean political correctness. It just became accurate. It became an accurate program, not just a fundraiser.”
It hasn’t gotten much easier for pop stars to air controversial political views through the mainstream media, though. On Aug. 14 of this year, Janelle Monae took the stage on “Today” to sing an extended version of her hit single “Tightrope.” Near the end of her song, Monae took a knee, closed her eyes and opened her mouth. (Watch above.)
“Yes, Lord, God bless America!” Monae said. “God bless all the lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know we stand tall today. We will not be silenced.”
At that moment, NBC cut away from Monae, in what the network says was a scheduled commercial break unrelated to Monae’s comments.
But with the rise of Twitter and movements like Black Lives Matter, whether it really takes a famous voice like Monae or West to launch a national debate is now an open question.
“One of the things [we've learned] through the Black Lives Matter movement and the actions that take place under that banner is it doesn’t really take celebrity,” said McIlwain, the NYU professor. “Many of the loudest voices in that movement are people that we had never heard, people who were a year ago in school, in college or working as college administrators.”
Lawrence, the former law student, is a partner now at Lumumba & Associates, a law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, near where he grew up. He works on criminal defense and human rights cases. Currently, he’s looking into the matter of Jonathan Sanders, a 39-year-old black man who was allegedly choked to death by a white police officer this July.
Last August, in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Lawrence noticed something that perturbed him. Media outlets were using a photo of Brown in a sleeveless red jersey making a pointed hand gesture — rather than a more sympathetic image of the soon-to-be college student, like him posing in graduation garb.
Frustrated, Lawrence spliced together two vastly different photos of himself and tweeted them out with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. ”I was thinking to myself, ‘If I was shot down, how would my story be told?’” he said. “If they gunned me down, how would the media portray me?”
In the first photo in Lawrence’s tweet, taken on the day of his graduation from Tougaloo College, he’s delivering a commencement speech as former President Bill Clinton laughs in the background. In the second picture — the one he thinks the media would use if he were killed — Lawrence is sporting sunglasses and a microphone, and holding a bottle of liquor. It was Halloween, and he’d gone as Kanye West.
Kanye West and George W. Bush did not respond to requests for comment.
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Now the chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc., Bob Pittman got his start in the media business as a 15-year-old disc jockey in Mississippi, where he grew up.
Motivated to earn money so he could take airplane flying lessons, he first applied to the local men’s clothing store and then tried to get a job bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly. When that failed, he walked into the local radio station, where the owner asked him to read some wire copy into a tape recorder.
“He goes, ‘That’s good enough, go to New Orleans and get your third class radio telephone operator’s license, and you’re hired.’ And that began my career,” says Pittman in an interview with Beet.TV. He’s held a variety of jobs in the media industry, from co-founding MTV to being COO of America Online, Inc. (later AOL Time Warner).
After his first break, Pittman worked as a disc jockey in Milwaukee and Detroit before getting an opportunity to program a radio station in Pittsburgh at age 19. Then he was hired by NBC in Chicago, and, at 23, he was transferred to WNBC, the flagship station, in New York.
Asked about his greatest career setback, he says he believes there’s no such thing, and you only learn and grow by doing.
“In our place we preach, at iHeart, that mistakes are the byproduct of innovation. If you’re going to try something new, there’s no way you’re going to think it through on paper,” he says.
Considering the future of the business five or six years down the road, Pittman thinks it’s going to continue to be transformed by data.
“It’s going to look very data-driven, it’s going to look very consumer-centric,” he says. “It’s going to be a wonderful mix of the math, which is the quantitative stuff, and the magic, which is the creativity.”
This segment is part of Beet.TV’s “Media Revolutionaries,” a 50-part series of interviews with key innovators and leaders in the media, technology and advertising industries, sponsored by Xaxis and AOL. Xaxis is a unit of WPP.
Pittman was interviewed for Beet.TV by David J. Moore, Chairman of Xaxis and President of WPP Digital.
You can find this post on Beet.TV.
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When producing daytime talk shows in the late ’90s to the ’00s, we used to produce every genre of pre-dated reality shows in one-hour talk-show formats (46 minutes of actual show time). Topics included: Wishes and Dreams, where — pre-Oprah’s “Favorite Things” — we’d give away a free house or a new car; find a lost love (thank you, Troy Dunn, host of TNT’s “APB”); and arrange meetings with celebrities (even if it was Maury’s wife, news anchor Connie Chung). In 46 minutes we’d give five sets of twins complete makeovers, making a quick change on a Broadway show look like eternity, and we had plenty of stories about little people and paternity tests. Now each topic practically has its own network.
Those segments have spawned a decade and a half of unscripted reality content to the extreme. Some of the folks who came out of the talk-show world to rule the reality world include execs like We tv President Marc Juris (“Rolonda”); Holly Jacobs, SVP of Programming and Development at Sony Domestic Television (“Sally Jesse Raphael”); and A&E and History Channel President Paul Buccieri (“Arthel & Fred”).
“We are all familiar with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. Archetypes are the delivery vehicle for story. Casting can be the most important part of storytelling in film and TV,” said Darren Campo, SVP Programming Strategy Food Network. “Great characters instantly convey a world of emotions and expectations from which the story unfolds.”
When a network sends a mandate out to us at TVGuestpert, or other producers and production companies, the veil is of a story line or range of which practically defines a personality type of person. This has many production companies scouring the country like a large casting call. In fact, sizzles have turned into talent reels.
“It’s all about, ‘Can this character carry a whole show?’” said Jordan Mallari, VP of Development for Stage 3 Productions with such shows as LMN’s upcoming launch of The Last Goodbye with medium Rebecca Rosen. “It’s 1) find great, fresh talent and lock them under contract, 2) develop a unique format around them, 3) showcase the talent and format.”
If you are paying close attention, you can spot the next trend. They come in waves of police shows, brides, unusual people, truck stops and diner types, survivalists to psychics. So the question here is: Have we simply become one uber-sized casting department or are we still producing story and television?
“It’s also knowing that the competition from production companies to digital media are doing the exact same thing,” added Mallari, a veteran reality show producer. “We are all looking for the next big name.”
ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Two young men featured in iconic photos taken during the Ferguson, Missouri, protests of August 2014 are among a whole swath of demonstrators and observers whom St. Louis County authorities chose to prosecute nearly a full year later.
Others who were recently charged by the St. Louis County Counselor’s office include a pastor, a “peace poet,” a young student muralist and a legal observer. At least three professional journalists (including one of the authors of this story) also recently found out they would have to appear in St. Louis County Municipal Court.
Authorities have not said precisely how many people have been charged just under the statute of limitations, but court records examined by The Huffington Post indicated that over two dozen individuals had court dates Monday for allegedly “interfering with a police officer in performance of his duties.” An unknown number of other individuals have court dates on Wednesday and next month.
It’s noteworthy that so many have been charged with little more than “interfering.” That’s the type of vaguely defined offense that policing experts say should be closely scrutinized by law enforcement agencies and by prosecutors because of the wide potential for misuse.
Edward Crawford — also known as “da man wit the chips” — is one of those now being charged. He was arrested in Ferguson on Aug. 13, 2014. Shortly before that, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer snapped a photo of Crawford, wearing an American flag T-shirt and holding a bag of chips, as he threw a police tear gas canister away from the crowd. The picture went viral.
Crawford, a 26-year-old waiter and father of three, told HuffPost that he recently received a summons in connection with the year-old incident. At the time, he was arrested on an officer interference charge, and a court official said he is also facing an assault charge. His court date is next month.
Earlier this month, Crawford came to the aid of Robert Cohen, the photographer who took the famous shot, after St. Louis County police hit Cohen with pepper spray. Crawford hopes to take classes to become an emergency medical technician, according to the Post-Dispatch, and is considering getting a tattoo of that picture of himself.
He recently told HuffPost that he thinks all the videos and social media furor have helped ensure that the police abuse of the past year hasn’t been ignored.
“In some parts of the world, this is unfamiliar,” Crawford said. “The police crimes are very low, police officers are respectable in a lot of places. Every police officer isn’t bad. There’s a lot of good police officers out there who protect and serve. But you also have some who seem to not.”
Another protester whose image became famous, Rashaad Davis, was arrested on Aug. 11, 2014. Photographer Whitney Curtis captured a stunning picture (above) of Davis with his hands in the air being confronted by heavily armed police officers in riot gear and gas masks. The photo gathered attention after it ran in The New York Times, and Curtis eventually won a 1st place award from the National Press Photographers Association.
Another angle on that confrontation (below) was caught by Scott Olson, a Getty photographer and former Marine who was later arrested in Ferguson simply for leaving a designated “media zone.” Olson does not appear to be facing charges in connection with that arrest.
But Davis, 24, has been charged with “interfering” with a police officer in performance of his duties.
Luke Nephew, a member of a group called the Peace Poets, is also facing an “interfering” charge, according to court records. Nephew previously wrote that he and others had been “talking, praying, listening, chanting” last August. Then “police broke into the crowd and started grabbing people,” he said, and everyone started to run.
“I was tackled to the ground,” he recalled. “Multiple cops jumped on me. One grabbed my face and smashed it into the concrete. I felt one of them slam his knee onto the back of my neck. All around, the police were doing the same thing to innocent people. My brothers were laid flat on the ground with automatic weapons pointed at their heads.”
Nephew wrote the lyrics to the song “I Can’t Breathe,” which has become popular in protest circles and was sung by road-blocking demonstrators in New York following the decision not to indict the officer who used a chokehold on Eric Garner. The Peace Poets did not respond to a request for comment.
Dennis Black, a legal observer originally arrested on a “failure to disperse” charge last year, has now been charged with “interfering” with a police officer as well. Rev. Melissa Bennett, who is often seen playing the drums during St. Louis area protests, was charged with “interfering” in connection with her October 2014 arrest, but that case was dismissed on Monday. A high school student who helped paint a mural on the Ferguson movement is facing an “interfering” charge.
And they are not the only ones whom St. Louis County authorities decided to prosecute for “interfering.” The number of people so charged is troubling. Christie Lopez, the Justice Department official overseeing the Civil Rights Division investigation into the unconstitutional practices of the Ferguson Police Department, noted in a 2010 paper on “contempt of cop” arrests that many federal settlement agreements require local law enforcement to track disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and other such charges that are frequently misused.
“There is widespread misunderstanding of police authority to arrest individuals who passively or verbally defy them. There is abundant evidence that police overuse disorderly conduct and similar statutes to arrest people who ‘disrespect’ them or express disagreement with their actions. These abusive arrests cause direct and significant harm to those arrested and, more generally, undermine the appropriate balance between police authority and individual prerogative to question the exercise of that authority,” Lopez wrote.
Ryan Reilly, one of the authors of this story, is facing charges, along with Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post, in connection with their arrests inside a McDonald’s in Ferguson on Aug. 13, 2014. Other journalists who recently received summonses from the St. Louis County Counselor include Tom Walters of the Canadian network CTV and Matty Giles, a New York University journalism student. (Videographer Mary Moore still faces charges in Ferguson Municipal Court brought by a different set of prosecutors.)
A joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations called the sudden flood of charges nearly a year after the Ferguson protests “a blatant violation of constitutional rights and an appalling misuse of our already overburdened court system.” The St. Louis County Counselor is mostly responsible for defending county officials from lawsuits. The office recently agreed to a settlement with reporter Trey Yingst, who was unlawfully arrested by the St. Louis County Police Department in November.
A county spokesman told HuffPost that most of the new cases are “probably not even that serious.” The charges, however, could lead to arrest warrants for individuals who are unaware they’ve been charged or unable to make their court date — a very likely scenario given the length of time between the incidents and the prosecutor’s response.
“No matter what we do as lawyers, there are going to be … young people who end up with warrants or end up locked up because of this,” said Brendan Roediger, a law professor at St. Louis University.
The showdown between St. Louis County and the two reporters who were charged with essentially doing their jobs in Ferguson, Missouri, last August began quietly enough on Monday. Court activity in the case was postponed until Oct. 5 as the lawyers maneuver.
It’s too soon to say what that means for The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery, but the prosecuting authority in their case, the St. Louis County Counselor, has clearly been busy.
And judging from the “hundreds“ of court summonses that defense attorneys say were recently sent out, it appears that County Counselor Peter Krane is ready to argue that a lot of good arrests were made amid the turmoil in Ferguson last year.
Despite widespread complaints from media organizations that Reilly and Lowery in particular did nothing to merit the charges, Krane doesn’t seem convinced.
“I’m not surprised that they would claim that they were not doing anything wrong,” Krane said last week, according to St. Louis Public Radio. “But I looked at the police report, and I feel that they did do something wrong.”
So how serious are the charges that Reilly and Lowery face in the North Division of the St. Louis County Municipal Court?
The reporters were each charged with trespassing on private property and interfering with a police officer during the performance of his duty. All this stems from an encounter at the Ferguson McDonald’s on Aug. 13, 2014, when the journalists allegedly did not vacate the fast-food establishment as fast as the police wanted.
The offenses with which they’ve been charged are governed by the part of the St. Louis County municipal code that regulates “public safety and morals.” Each offense is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of $1,000 or both.
But the threat of jail time is likely only on paper. In real life, the alleged misdeeds under Missouri law barely rise to the level of “ordinance violations” — think of the kind of broken-windows policing that has been a hot topic in New York and elsewhere. A St. Louis County reference guide calls these ordinances “regulations that commonly affect everyday life.”
None of these quality-of-life offenses are being pursued by Robert McCulloch, St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney. A spokesman for the county confirmed to The Huffington Post that McCulloch referred all the nonviolent cases stemming from the Ferguson unrest to the county counselor’s office.
“There were so many cases that came in,” said Cordell Whitlock, director of communications for St. Louis County. “The workload was such that it had to be divvied up.”
Last week, Krane had denied that McCulloch or the city of Ferguson turned down the prosecutions prior to the referral to his office. He said that the “charges came to my office and my office only for review.”
The county counselor’s office also defends the county and its agencies, like the police department, against lawsuits.
Whitlock said that most of these new cases against those once arrested are “probably not even that serious,” and he suggested that Krane would be seeking community service in many of them.
It isn’t clear if any offer of community service is on the table for Reilly and Lowery. Besides reducing potential punishment, any deal that the two reporters — or any of the others arrested and now charged — might strike with authorities could theoretically address their rights to bring related future cases, such as those alleging that the police violated their First Amendment rights.
The issue of succession is a difficult matter not just for family-run businesses but for the families that run them. Take the Murdochs, for instance. Or the Binghams, the Kentucky newspaper clan that imploded in the 1980s. Historically speaking, transitions in the Sulzberger family, which has run the New York Times for 119 years, have not gone all that smoothly.
Controversy surrounding the term “anchor baby” to describe children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants spurred debate over another offensive term Friday on Fox News’ “The Five.”
“The term that I despise is ‘illegal alien,’” guest host Geraldo Rivera said. “‘Illegal alien’ is like ‘negro’ or ‘colored.’ It was appropriate maybe in the 1950s. Nowadays, it’s absolutely offensive.”
“I like it,” guest host Tucker Carlson, founder and editor-in-chief of conservative news website The Daily Caller, retorted. “It’s one of my favorite terms. I love it. It’s like, literally true, and that’s why people hate it.”
“Negro is literally true — do you still use that?” Rivera countered.
“No,” Carlson said. “There’s no comparison at all.”
“Illegal alien” is widely considered insulting because it suggests a human being’s existence may be illegal. Last month, The Associated Press Stylebook, which dictates editorial standards for the wire service and is followed by many of the world’s English language news publications, said it would stop using the phrase.
“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” Kathleen Carroll, AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, said in an announcement. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”
The Bob & Chez Show Podcast: Trumps Completely Racist Immigration Plan, Plus More Sarah Palin Word Salad and Bad Lip Reading the GOP Debate
Today’s topics include: Bad Lip Reading the GOP Debate; Josh Duggar Exposed in Ashley Madison Hack; Hackers are Still Hackers No Matter Who’s Exposed; Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin React to Trump’s Immigration Plan; The Mainstreaming of Slavery; Anchor Babies; Deez Nuts for President; Bionic Dan Bidondi’s Bionic Italian Gynecologist; and much more.
The Bob & Chez Show is a funny, fast-paced political podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The twice-weekly podcast is hosted by Bob Cesca (Salon.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Banter, The Stephanie Miller Show), and CNN/MSNBC producer turned writer Chez Pazienza. Follow the show at www.bobcesca.com with special thanks to David Benowitz.
Bloomberg is planning to slim its ranks, sources said on Wednesday.
The financial media giant, which employs about 2,400 journalists across the globe, is planning to lay off about 100 employees, or about 4.2 percent, in its editorial division as soon as Labor Day, The Post has learned.
Many of the layoffs are expected to target politics and government reporters out of the New York and Washington, DC, bureaus, two sources told The Post.