Ferguson, Missouri: Media “Crack House”~ Leticia Wong
What started out as a local shooting death in an average neighborhood, has morphed into a media “crack-house”.
This is what has become of the township of Ferguson just outside of St. Louis City, Missouri. The immediate rush to label this a racially-motivated incident, even murder, has been nothing less than a call for journalists to get high.
Thus, in the two weeks since the shooting, journalists from news networks, citizen journalists, and bloggers have come running to St. Louis, salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. A story about a white cop who shoots an unarmed black teenager in cold blood is a tremendous fix, even if they have to cook that narrative up with as few facts as possible.
The story hasn’t turned out to be what they had anticipated, however, as things aren’t always as simple as they appear. Details surrounding the incident came out drop by uncomfortable drop, revealing a fuller picture that perhaps Officer Darren Wilson had probable cause to shoot and kill. No matter. What has supplied the media with continuous fixes are the looters and the rioters, the police with tear gas, the insertion of politicians called to “do something” about civil unrest, the arrival (and departure) of the National Guard, and even the federal government carving out a role for itself in a neighborhood that is better measured in square yards than in square miles.
And so two weeks later, with no new developments in the investigation into the shooting, the story seems to have faded significantly as the reporters themselves have taken center stage. The media now appear to be like a large flock of pigeons flitting up and down West Florissant Avenue. They have nailed down canopies, and reporters can be spotted at almost every street corner psychoanalyzing everything from the gunshot pattern to voting practices of the state.
It just feels and smells like they are here to put themselves on camera. And I’m not the only one who is saying that. One journalist and one photographer have recently written blog posts about why they are leaving Ferguson, and they are doing it for all the right reasons. Ryan L. Schuessler, a freelance journalist shares one of his observations:
“One reporter who, last night, said he came to Ferguson as a “networking opportunity.” He later asked me to take a picture of him with Anderson Cooper.”
“There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.
We should all be ashamed, and I cannot do it anymore. I am thankful for my gracious editors who understand that.”
Photographer Abe Van Dyke confesses he felt like part of the problem.
“When the skies turn dark is when troublemakers come out which has led to night after night of violence in this small community. Expecting the worst, an increasing amount of amateur, foreign and domestic journalists came into town. At one point there appeared to be as many media members as there were protestors…”
“A woman was pepper sprayed and a civilian medic needed to attend to her which brought the media to completely surround her and the medic.
To me this is the point where the media is no longer simply reporting what is happening but rather becoming a hindrance and making the situation worse. Over the past few days journalists have been a part of inciting protestors by getting dangerously close and not always following police orders…”
“I am no saint. I photographed alongside everyone tonight and was part of the problem. I refused to follow police orders and only moved when threatened by arrest or with the flow of the crowd.
I am embarrassed by the way the media acted tonight, myself included and have decided that the media is now a problem in Ferguson. I will be leaving Missouri in the morning while hundreds of other journalists will continue to record events and battle with police for the right to be there.”
It hasn’t been all bad though. Media, eager to scoop up anything they can find, have unwittingly outed the great number of out-of-town protesters among the locals, perhaps even outnumbering the locals. Known Marxist revolutionaries, New Black Panthers, and professional agitators have been spotted in the streets. Even Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have paid a token visit. Eric Holder too. I wonder how many of them even know the names of Michael Brown’s parents.
Clearly, the situation in Ferguson has become ridiculously media-driven. It would be better for the community if the cameras were put away at this point, because it can be difficult to tell if marchers are marching for Michael Brown or marching for the camera…and some looted hair extensions. And the journalists? I think it will be hard for them too. They will stay at least through the Michael Brown funeral. There’s still a little life left in Ferguson they have to burn and smoke before they finally look elsewhere.
Letitia Wong of Tru Life Radio (The Damsel) Please join your hosts, Letitia Wong and Melissa Pellew, for TRU-Life Fridays Radio on BlogTalkRadio every Friday from 5-6:30pm Central.
(Wow, that didn’t take long, to get a t-shirt made with a picture of Michael Brown pictured as an innocent baby…..just sayin’)