TV news loves to play footsie with police. When it works, TV gets a cool story with insider access. And police get vital info to the public— or, more often, public credit for arresting bad guys. The media does this at its peril sometimes. Folks in crime-ridden areas see TV trucks and think “the man” is in their midst. Reporters talking to drug dealers or ticket scalpers often have to explain that they aren’t in cahoots with the cops.
With this underlying concern, we recently had a conversation with a writer from the Southern Voice about a WSB piece, wherein Jodie Fleischer played a bit of footsie with DeKalb police. The subject was the Belvedere Theater, one of the last “adult” theaters in town. Fleischer sent a WSB photog into the theater. Once inside, veteran photog Rick Nelson saw and recorded images of men having sex in the theater as the Feature Presentation played. Fleischer showed the tape to the cops. The cops raided the theater. WSB’s camera happened to be there as some sheepish-looking dudes were loaded onto the paddy wagon.
Our take: Despite the tawdry and sensational nature of the story, it was a clean hit. Fleischer was reacting to complaints from neighbors, who said the theater was a blight. She interviewed Nelson on camera, partly because it was impossible to fully show the images he’d recorded. And she showed the tape to police, which apparently prompted them to do their own investigation and make subsequent arrests.
Is it reasonable for police and journalistic resources to be devoted to cracking down on otherwise-harmless middle-aged men playing footsie, and more, in a public theater? That may be debatable. But it’s obnoxious public behavior at best. As such stories go, Fleischer’s was well done.