How much of a Chicago brutality video should be shown? The media don't agree
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Even when it comes to brutality, little is left to the media imagination these days.
The latest example of the decline in consensus about the acceptable involves the Facebook video of a mentally disabled Chicago man who was attacked and racially berated on Facebook Live. Four people were charged with aggravated kidnapping and hate crimes, among other things.
Unless you were on Mars, you may not know that the disabled man's wrists were bound and his mouth taped shut as two men cut his shirt with knives, then took turns punching him and stomping his head. "One of the men cut the victim’s scalp with a knife." (Chicago Tribune)
It seems like centuries ago that, for example, media agonized over the video of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl being savagely murdered by Pakistani terrorists. Most didn't run the video. That was way back when, in 2002.
Now, with Facebook, the "well, it's already out there on social media, we can't ignore it" rationalization often takes hold. Thus, there were a great many folks who used portions of the video.
Large portions of the sick attack were seen around the world. But it really was a hodge-podge. Some did brief stories and showed small glimpses, others showed longer glimpses. In Chicago, as my colleague, Al Tompkins notes, mainstream TV executives claim that they strove to take a high road and are displaying caution. (Poynter)
Well, as Warner Wolf, a former longtime New York and Washington TV sportscaster, used to say, "Let's go to the videotape!"
WMAQ, the NBC-owned station, ran one piece fronted by reporter Charlie Wojciechowski that used the video eight times during his piece, while another later fronted by reporter Trina Orlando used it seven times. (WMAQ) Earlier, WBBM, the CBS-owned station, treated morning viewers to video of the disabled man being forced to drink from a toilet. (WBBM)
Yup, there it was: Disabled man's head being jammed into a toilet. Nothing very blurry there. Some caution, guys.
Anyway, they're no longer the only game in town. So it gets worse. The local Chicago area version of Patch ran it very, very raw and with the victim's face pretty darn clear. (Patch)
Meanwhile, on the print side, "We chose not to run the video because we believe it is too easy to identify the victim at several points," said Jim Kirk, editor-publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times. "We felt the story along with a still of the video with his face obscured conveyed the essence of what happened."
Other area papers, including The Chicago Tribune, ran excerpts but blurred out the victim's face.
Scour the nation and, it was clear once again, as a California local news executive told me, that any rules of the road depended on a station's, or a station group's, inclination toward the sensational. He left no doubt that there is simply no longer "a widely shared sense of what’s appropriate."
CNN didn't leave much to the imagination in its version, either. "Beating shown on Facebook Live" is splashed across its version. Fox News ran versions on multiple shows, with hosts including Megyn Kelly and Martha MacCallum dutifully warning us with an air of solemnity of the shocking video about to be shown, then showing it. (Fox)
"Shouldn’t we use the same rules of judgment as we always have and use those portions that are necessary to tell the story while still being cognizant of those in the images?" asks Jeffrey Seglin, an ethicist and policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School.
We should. But we don't. For example, Hale Global bought Patch from AOL and a year ago boasted a dramatic increase in users, up to 23 million a month in 23 states in which it was operating. (The Wall Street Journal)
I picked one of its 1,000 sites totally randomly last night. Wilmington Patch in Wilmington, Massachusetts (population: 22,000). The video was there, too.
There must be tons of local interest, don't you figure? So Patch Media is merely at your service, news-hungry Wilmingtonians.
Facebook really live
So Mark Zuckerberg is traveling the land to talk to real people. As Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, puts it to me, "If you go to 50 states and have Zuckerberg's youth, money, and fame, you're running for something — eventually. Trump has opened the door to a series of governmentally inexperienced candidates for president and other high offices."
Sabato isn't alone. "Why Mark Zuckerberg is suddenly acting like a politician." (Slate)
All politics are local
"It was Obama's first interview with a Chicago news reporter in his eight years in office," WMAQ, the NBC station in Chicago claimed on its website, about a White House interview conducted by its estimable Carol Marin, who also runs the DePaul University Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence.
No, far from it. It was his first sit-down (the first of five yesterday) with a Chicago television reporter. He's done lots with print and radio guys.
Imprecision aside, Marin did ask about the man who tried to sell Obama's Senate seat after he was elected president, namely the now-imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "Rod Blagojevich wants you to commute him. Will you?"
Obama went on for a bit but didn't directly respond and, by doing so, said no.
Like Nixon going to China
"President-elect Donald Trump will have a sit-down meeting Friday morning at Condé Nast offices with his longtime nemesis Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who kicked off a decades-long rivalry with the real estate mogul when he dubbed him a 'short-fingered vulgarian' in Spy magazine in 1988." (Politico) Other Conde Nast executives are expected to be part of the session.
Hate video (cont.)
"The appearance of what appeared to be an hour-long torture video on Facebook Live could undermine efforts to get more brands and publishers to try out the feature." (Ad Age)
"The video was another reminder of how chaotic social media can be, and could be a warning sign for brands and publishers that have tentatively embraced these unruly environs. It could also slow down Facebook's plans to try to make money from Facebook Live, one of its latest and biggest priorities as it tries to further compete for TV ad dollars."
Well, maybe Facebook can at least help the defendants post bond.
Knock on wood
The exhausting, cliche-ridden and apple-polishing Chris Berman "is stepping down from his role as the host of ESPN’s NFL programming slate, which includes Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Primetime and Monday Night Countdown after this year’s Super Bowl, ending a 31-year run as the network’s primary NFL studio host." (Adweek)
Perils of criticism
Pete Wells, The New York Times' restaurant reviewer, was quasi-populist hero a year ago after downgrading Manhattan's fabled Per Se to two stars from four. "Now, a year later, Wells is being pilloried for being a 'fucking jerk.'" (Eater.com)
"After awarding zero stars to the Oakland, California location of Locol — the community-minded fast-food chainlet from chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, which many in the food media have hailed as the most important dining establishment of 2016 (oh, hello) — a consensus has emerged that he pulled 'a completely dick-ish and unnecessary move,' with readers sarcastically suggesting he 'take on soup kitchens next.'"
"Hardly coverage of a single issue"
In an interview with PBS "NewsHour," Vice President Joe Biden claimed this about the presidential campaign: "We never got to substance. You can't find any of your viewers who can define for you what Hillary's free tuition college plan was about. We never got to it."
And who's fault was that, asked Judy Woodruff?
"Well, I think it was multiple faults. I don't think the campaign was clear enough. I don't think you guys were ready to cover it. There was hardly any coverage of a single issue, of a substantive issue."
Joe, to quote you at times, baloney. You want the tuition plan? There was a fair bit of coverage. Joe, try this, or this, or this (CBS News). Or maybe this. Maybe "Hillary Clinton's college affordability plan, explained" (Vox).
The search for minority cops
Relations between Chicago's minority community and the police department are lousy, so maybe this won't hurt: Midway Broadcasting, owner of the Black talk radio station WVON-AM, will host an event to recruit minorities to the department.
"It is ultimately encouraging the public to Be the Change in their communities," says a press release. "Attendees will be able to apply onsite, talk with Chicago Police Officers and meet WVON Personalities. The Brown Farmer Media Group, a minority-and-woman owned business, is leading recruitment and targeted marketing for the 2017 Be the Change campaign. Members of the media are welcome and encouraged to attend."
Delving into the obscure, potentially important
"House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service." (The Washington Post)
"The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program."
The morning babble
"Morning Joe" (initially five White males around a table this morning) discussed Joe Biden's PBS mix of Monday morning quarterbacking and his repeating a summer refrain about Democratic shortcomings with the working class. And Joe Scarborough, a Trump Whisperer, explained fawningly how Trump is an exponent of meritocracy ("It's all meritocracy for Donald Trump"). That must explain hiring Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” and Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts, rich-kid owner of a suburban Chicago bike shop (the press keeps only calling him "part-owner of the Chicago Cubs" since the family owns it though a brother runs it).
At least there was some diversity on CNN's "New Day," which set up Trump's meeting with intelligence analysts today and whether he'll accept their obvious findings about Russian meddling. And there was talk of the complexities of replacing Obamacare, relying heavily on a Dr. Sanjay Gupta interview with one Trump voter who doesn't want it repealed because of its impact on saving his life and home.
On "Fox & Friends" we got images of "the four Black people" who will face those hate crime changes formally today. So we got some of the Facebook Live video. "TEENS NOT SORRY FOR DISGUSTING ATTACKS" (one wasn't a teen, chyron creators). We also got Kurt the CyberGuy reporting back from the Consumer Electronics Show. He especially loved the Sony Bravia OLED, the super thin, super high-resolution, super bright TV, as well as the Royole headset, or "mobile theater," that recreates a curved screen with 2-D and 3-D images.
Moving the cable chess pieces
So Greta Van Susteren will move to MSNBC to host a prime-time show, while Tucker Carlson will inherit Megyn Kelly's spot at Fox. Carlson will be replaced at an earlier hour by Martha MacCallum, leaving CNN's Don Lemon the lone non-white to host an evening show on cable.
But thank goodness, for diversity's sake, that the media's executive ranks are so dominated by women and minorities, right?
Here's inspiring cultural news: Binge-watching will shape the future of the content viewing according to a panel of industry experts at the Binge TV Media and the Hollywood Connection conference." (Streaming Advisor)
"According to the panel moderator and US Media & Entertainment Leaders for Deloitte Consulting LLP Kevin Westcott 70 percent of U.S. citizens have watched at least three to five episodes [of a show] in one sitting. This current trend of binge watching popular TV shows such as The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad is posing some new challenges to both advertisers and content creators."
But it's good that there are no challenges for, say, family life. So have a good weekend, as I chaperone a bar mitzvah-goer in New York and handle personal matters there. But do feel free to drop the kids on the playground, in the nearest YMCA or at a movie triple-feature while you head back to bed and watch a couple of seasons of "Catastrophe," "Black Mirror," "House of Cards," "Broad City" or whatever.
Actual human dialogue is so overrated — as hard-pressed advertisers and content creators will surely acknowledge.