Footsie

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.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

5 thoughts on “Footsie

  1. rptrcub

    It’s inevitable during sweeps that the cops will do a raid on sex in the park/theatre/etc, and TV will lap it up. At least that’s what happened during my time at a certain east Georgia newspaper. Parks are one thing (get a room!), enclosed theatres are another.

    Reply
  2. dekalbofficers

    This theatre as been a meeting place for the perverted for years, with the owners and participants receiving numerous court summons for various violations. The county seems to be so desperate for money; it allows this business and others to continue operating no matter the violations.
    The media should explore the “all night clubs” that are operating right under the nose of the police. One particular club doesn’t close until 7:00 AM!
    Smells a lot like Bolton, Rizos and Lipscomb scandal drifting into DeKalb County from Dallas Texas.

    Reply
  3. SSG Daly

    I saw two movies at that theater when I was in highschool. It was a dollar theater back when I saw “Red Dawn” and my cheap ass actually had a date.
    The other movie I saw there was “The Warriors.” That whole little shopping center was great when I was a child. Belvedere Mall (Later known as Avondale Mall) was just across the next intersection. It was the only “Mall” in my neck of the woods until South Dekalb Mall was built. Lionel Leisure City was across the street from the Theater and had the best toy selection ever.
    Then the whole neigborhood went to hell.

    Reply
  4. Justin

    You wrote about the footsie between TV and the 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.”

    By these standads, Jodie’s story did not work. It was not a cool story. I’m sure some people think it’s cool to watch people get arrested for sex and drug crimes, but I don’t. Jodie created the story and handed it to the cops, but her insider access added nothing of value to it. And what vital info did the police relay to the public? Nothing. And do those homeowners feel like they got credit for the arrests made? Do they feel good about it? Are they happy the police arrested six guys for consensual sex, while the murderer of the theater owner’s son has not been apprehended?

    If it was a true investigative piece, Jodie would have included interviews with DeKalb County government officials explaining why the club has been allowed to remain open. How has it been allowed to remain in a legal black hole all this time? If the theater shouldn’t be open according to county law, then the spotlight should be on the incompetent government, not the theater itself.

    Cliff Bostock at Creative Loafing wrote about this story last week, for anyone who’s interested.

    Reply
  5. Justin

    I was wrong about the DeKalb PD not apprehending the (accused) killer of the owner’s son. It happened in late April while I was on vacation, so I missed that news cycle.

    Reply

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