White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
On the ground in Jena
The story of six black students in Jena, La. charged with beating a white student in a climate of racial intimidation has taken a dramatic reversal in the media. Contrast the past 12 months, in which the story was kept alive by African-American bloggers and Facebook networking, to the present, when the Sept. 20 rally in the Louisiana town splashed the story into international awareness. WXII-12, the NBC news affiliate in Winston-Salem, deserves kudos for sending reporter Wanda Starke and videographer Eric Dowdy down to Jena to cover the story. Joining about 50 NC A&T University students on the bus trip, Starke has been blogging. And her clear, concise dispatches have taken sometimes personal turns. The attitudes of white residents of Jena have been mixed, Starke reports. One of her sources said the case has been blown out of proportion. Another called the demonstration “marvelous,” adding, “It’s the South. Just look around. There should be a lot more white people here with blacks trying to change the laws.” The 37 comments compiled on Starke’s blog by Monday reveal a vigorous unfolding discussion about race in the Triad as well. One commenter identified as “tbird” opined that Starke should be fired for trying to “further your own agenda.” Another person, “sadiek,” wrote, “I really admire the bravery of Ms. Starke and the A&T students for venturing into a situation filled with such animosity and tension. As a white American I don’t think I can ever fully understand what it is like to be black in this country, but I hope that bringing national attention to ongoing racial issues will help us all be more aware that racism is still very much a current event.”
News or racism?
Meanwhile, other students from A&T gathered Monday afternoon outside the News & Record offices to protest what they perceive as biased treatment in Greensboro’s rag-of-record. David Street, president of the student government association, said the students are fed up with front-page stories chronicling the financial misdeeds of former Chancellor James Renick. Recently Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson announced he would seek an SBI probe into the finances of Renick and other A&T administrators. Although Street said he understands that the issue – which concerns some $2 million in vending and scholarship funds – is of public interest, he thinks the volume of stories and their prominence on the front page is unwarranted.
Don’t tase me, bro!
We probably should have been pulling for Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida journalism student who doggedly… uh, questioned?… Sen. John Kerry during a speech on campus. Professional courtesy and all that. But we know bald-faced opportunism when we see it, and we’ll reserve our loyalties for real journalists who ask tough questions in appropriate settings, and with due respect, even if the interviewee barely qualifies for it. Also, we were to busy laughing to muster up any righteous indignation.
Dan Rather, who anchored the CBS “Evening News” for 24 years, filed a $70 million suit last week against his former employer, alleging wrongful termination in a firing that followed the 2004 Memogate scandal. Rather hung on at CBS for six months after revelations that he used fake documents in a story about President Bush’s Air National Guard service. The newsman, who hosts a news show on HDNet, said the network actually fired him to placate the Bush administration, and claims he was made a scapegoat. Rather’s lawsuit has been received rather coldly among the press corps, most of whom fault the anchor for not properly authenticating the documents and for standing by the story while its credibility eroded.