Let’s not forget what today is: The 53rd anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. I still recall it as if it were yesterday and I was all but six. And I still grieve, for he and his family and for all of us and what could have been. Please go to Essays and “Innocence Lost” on my thoughts of that fateful November day so long ago and how a nation divided, even then, found the strength to come together as we all mourned.
I promised myself that my blog would never be an excuse to simply rant, but somewhere in the midst of all this post-election prattle, we are learning of two pseudo-journalists, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman, who from the luxury of a cushy couch in a California apartment saw fit to fill the net with fake news during election week. They cashed in on a website trend, distorted the truth, made up shit and most disturbing, their followers drank from the crock and swallowed the streaming Kool Aid without question.
They maintain that their audience does not trust the mainstream media. Perhaps the mainstream media (broadcast?) has given them reason to be so distrustful in recent months (Fox News, where fore art thou, Roger?).
I’ll say it again: the line between news and entertainment has blurred and tunnel vision in a young audience unable or unwilling to think on its own is the result.
What I heard time and again before and after the election from people on the street was that the “corrupt” media” was to blame for part of our woes and divisions.
When did the media become the enemy? It certainly didn’t happen overnight.
It think it was around April 10, 1990 in Teaneck when teenager Phillip Pannell, while fleeing police, was shot and killed in a fence-bordered backyard by Teaneck officer Gary Spath. Spath was later charged and acquitted of manslaughter, but at the time it placed a vicious spotlight on both police brutality and racial profiling. The teen was black and the officer white.
With the likes of the Rev. Al Sharpton stirring the pot, what started out to be a peaceful, candle-lit vigil at town hall the night after the shooting turned into a full-fledged riot and it is in my opinion, the first instance in which the media was viewed as the enemy and particularly targeted. I arrived on scene just after teens overturned and burned three police cruisers. My colleague at the Times, Bob Hanley, and I were jumped while driving through the neighborhood where the shooting took place and where a vast crowd of unruly teens had gathered. We barely escaped with our lives as they descended on my car. Had the doors not been locked as I edged our way slowly to safety by cutting through an adjacent park, I know we would have been dragged from our vehicle and beaten.
One memory I will carry with me always: A determined AP photographer who I well knew staggered out from a stand of trees across from town hall that night and into my path. He was battered and bloodied, his right eye starting to swell and close, and related to me that he’d just been jumped my a marauding band of teens who relieved him of his three Nikon cameras and bag of expensive lenses. Their last act in retreat, he said, was to kick him in the head for good measure.
“We need to get you to the emergency room,” I said, pointing across the street to Holy Name Hospital.
“Fuck that,” he said, wiping the blood from his face. “They may have kicked the shit out of me and taken my cameras, but they didn’t get these.” He reached in his photographer’s vest and with a shaking hand, pulled out three rolls of film he’d shot of the mayhem just an hour earlier. The film was handed of to a colleague bound for New York. It’s only then that my photographer friend relented to having his head wounds stitched closed.
We survived covering that story that night and telling the truth about what we had witnessed. And we certainly didn’t do it while sitting on a cushy couch.