Category Archives: Creative Loafing

Hotheads

I’ll admit it.  I was a bit nervous after the grand jury in St. Louis County declined to indict the Ferguson MO police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.  That night, violence had erupted in Ferguson.  Protestors in Atlanta had already planned events for the following day.

As the grand jury report was unveiled, somebody named Thomas Gibbons sent me an unsettling tweet.  It had a humorous touch, but the sender’s profile pic also showed a young man pointing a pistol.  I retweeted it, just because I was impressed that he was familiar enough with my bio to reference events 22 years previous.

retweetI was a bit sullen during the morning editorial meeting the following day.  My colleagues pitched a lot of pretty great ideas that related the Ferguson story to the Atlanta market.  I was not so clever.  At the end of the meeting, the managing editor asked what people thought might happen that day.  I ended up blurting out what, in hindsight, was a rather alarmist speech.

I’m expecting the worst. I  hope I’m wrong.  But we should all expect to be targets. It only takes a few hotheads to make it turn ugly.

Whatever happens today won’t just be about Ferguson.  It’ll be about a lifetime of frustration, experienced by people in metro Atlanta who genuinely believe they — or their friends or family or neighbors —  have been mistreated by police and by the justice system.  Most of us at this table don’t understand that frustration first-hand.  Today will provide an opportunity for such folks to gather and make an emphatic statement..

This will be a target-poor environment .  Government buildings will be well protected.  Police will be armed.   News crews will be unprotected.  Like it or not, people with cameras and microphones will represent “the man” in the eyes of folks looking to lash out.  We need to be very careful.

The editorial meeting ended with a bit of a chill.  I found myself shaking as I retreated to my desk.

Fortunately, the protests were much more like Occupy Atlanta than they were like Rodney King.  Police gave the protestors a pretty wide berth, up until the point that they decided to march on the I-75/85 Downtown Connector.

Who knew that, at that point, a few hotheads in law enforcement would become the problem.

(Oh, wait — that was kind of the whole point of the protest…)

When the protestors ventured down the ramp to the interstate highway, news crews followed.  The protestors blocked traffic.  Police who’d followed told photogs to stay on the shoulder.

In custody: 11Alive photog Tyson Paul

In custody: WXIA photog Tyson Paul

11Alive photog Tyson Paul was among them.  There came a moment when he watched some cops physically remove some protestors from a lane of traffic and put them in a paddy wagon.  Tyson turned to shoot it.  Then he felt a cop grab his wrist.  His camera lurched to the left.  His voice is heard on the video saying “I’m with channel eleven.”  The cop orders him to put his camera down.  He was taken to Turner Field, where he was processed into the city jail along with a couple dozen arrested protestors.

It’s unclear why the cops singled out Tyson — and Creative Loafing freelancer John Ruch.  Ruch was arrested on a sidewalk outside APD’s Zone 5 precinct on Spring St.  Here’s the last photo he took before the cops cuffed him.  (If Ruch has published a first-hand account of his experience, I can’t find it.)

Photo by John Ruch, Creative Loafing

Photo by John Ruch, Creative Loafing

I have always heard that it’s illegal to just take a stroll on an interstate highway — even in the emergency lane.  Obviously, if your car is disabled, that’s one thing; but many interstate highways have signs that say “no pedestrians.”  It’s quite likely that by following the protestors onto the highway, the news crews broke a law.

But Tyson is a pretty fearless photog.  He followed his instinct to follow the story.

When they got onto the highway, Tyson says cops actually advised him to confine himself to the shoulder in order to avoid running afoul of law enforcement. The young Atlanta cop who cuffed him apparently wasn’t part of that conversation.

He spent the night in jail.  The next morning, a municipal court judge dropped the charge against Tyson.  When Tyson went to court, he had his first face-to-face encounter with Jennifer Rigby, 11Alive’s new news director.  She started work last week, and made a point of attending the early morning court hearing.

Thankfully, I was wrong about the protests.  The police, however, surprised me.  As somebody said– it only takes a few hotheads to make it turn ugly.

Friday, the Atlanta Police public affairs unit is hosting one of its regular “get to know us” sessions for the news media.  This one may be worth attending.

 

 

 

 

 

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Either / or

Photo by Joeff Davis, Creative Loafing

About a month ago, a man named Joeff Davis rang my cell phone.  He identified himself as a photographer with Creative Loafing.  “I need to photograph you for our upcoming ‘Best Of’ issue,” said Davis, whose first name is pronounced “johf.”

“Does this mean I’m going to be the ‘best of’ something?” I asked.

“Can’t tell ya that.  Sorry,” was the answer.   “When can I shoot you?”

I figured the editors of that magazine had run out of local blogs, and had defaulted onto this one as a “best of” in Atlanta.  It didn’t make much sense though, given that this blog packed more punch prior to my employment at WXIA, and the Loaf had never acknowledged it then (except in irregular links in the daily “fresh loaf.”)

The “editor’s choice” arguably carries more prestige than the “reader’s choice.”  CL typically does a brief write-up on the “editor” winners, as was the case with this year’s Best Celebrity, Kevin Gillespie’s beard.  The shameless egomaniac in me would have welcomed a glowing graf in the Loaf.

Fast forward to last week, when the “Best Of” issue hit the streets.   Pecanne Log got the writeup for best local blog, again.   The wife found me under “Reader’s Choice:  Best Local TV, Magazine or Newspaper Reporter.”  I got my name in print, plus a photo online, but no writeup.  (Readers’ Choice for Best Blog was a blog I’d never read called The Quick + Dirty Dirty.  It appears to a be a lively, photo-filled blog about the nightlife and shopping exploits of two young Atlanta women.  Congrats to them, Pecanne Log, and Brook.)

In 2004, Mrs. LAF lovingly and shamelessly launched a mini-campaign to get her pals to enter my name in the “Best Local TV or News Reporter” category, and it worked. The Loaf gave me a piece of printed cardboard, suitable for framing.  Mrs. LAF framed it, and hung it alongside her 2000 “Editor’s Choice:  Best Radio DJ” award.

I was amused by the backhanded swipe that the “Best Local TV or News Reporter” award gave to the TV industry.  It was during the time when newspaper folk still had a bit of a superiority complex, generally speaking, vis a vis your TV news goonfolk.  The award clearly suggested that one could be a TV reporter, or a news reporter, but not both.

By 2010, CL had gone into bankruptcy, downsized its still-lively newspaper and generously revised its category title.  By putting newspaper, magazine and TV reporters in the same category, it seems to acknowledge that we’re all equally capable, institutionally-speaking, of covering news.

Mrs. LAF admits to one posting on Facebook encouraging friends to submit “best of” entries to the Loaf this summer.  She included me with Criminal Records, Aurora Coffee and other mainstays.  It was a casual, one-off post, she insists.  She wants me to believe that the people actually rose up and anointed me organically.  I believe her.

I also believe that no campaigning benefited The Quick + Dirty Dirty.   And OJ Simpson is innocent.

Too few “massage services” ads…?

The AJC reports that Creative Loafing has filed for bankruptcy.   “CEO Ben Eason said the filing would help the chain improve its online business while it reorganizes its operations,” writes the AJC.

Fresh Loaf has been linking to other blogs that predict trouble for other prominent free weeklies, including layoffs at the Village Voice.  But staff in Atlanta has no worries, or so says the CEO:

“The bankruptcy petition was filed in Tampa, where the company’s based, and was timed to preclude an interest payment that was owed lenders on Wednesday.

The company will ask federal bankruptcy Judge Caryl Delano to stay any attempt by creditors to liquidate the assets or take control of the company.

“We’re doing the right things,” Eason said. “This will give us a fresh start. It is a reorganization, not a liquidation. Everybody gets paid.”

The debt load was substantially increased last year when Creative Loafing purchased the Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper. Since then, advertising revenues for the print editions of the papers has deteriorated, as they have for newspapers nationwide. Over the same period last year, revenues were down between 10 and 15 percent.

The Loaf’s creditors include the Georgia Department of Revenue and the company that prints its papers.

Satanic majesties

No doubt, we weren’t the only ones who howled with laughter when we spotted the current Creative Loafing in a box in Decatur.  The cover photo of Bob Barr is delightfully evil.  It is among several taken during a Libertarian Party fundraiser. Photographer Joeff Davis — if that’s his real name — used the tried-and-true technique of below-the-subject lighting.  It put horns on Barr’s head (in the print version) and put Spockian shadows on his eyebrows.  Barr’s reptilian smile is all his own doing.

(Did somebody mention Spock?  Sorry, then resistance is futile.   If the f-word or homoerotic themes offend you, then skip this rather side-splitting video.)

Given the relative anonymity of his presidential candidacy, Barr probably didn’t complain much.  This would contrast sharply with the reaction John McCain’s camp had over a photo that appears in this month’s Atlantic.

Apparently, Atlantic hired a lefty photographer who happily took her political agenda to the shoot.  The result was a photo that McCain’s backers used as ammo to gripe about what they see as a media conspiracy against their guy.

The Fox News Channel was apoplectic.  Its snarling interview with Atlantic’s editor was ringing with naked partisan outrage.  (Regular viewers of Fox News are probably accustomed to this.  We aren’t.)  The Atlantic editor apologized and denounced the photographer.  The dissatisfied Fox anchor all but demanded legal action or, it seemed, a good ol’ fashioned necktie party.

AJC Lite

It costs more now to print and deliver a newspaper. That’s the reason the AJC cited Sunday for announcing that it would eliminate its Sunday @Issue opinions section, starting next week. @Issue was the liveliest section of the newspaper. Yesterday’s @Issue consisted of two broadsheets folded into eight pages. We’re trying to picture how its elimination will substantially save precious money spent on newsprint and fuel.

The untold story is the one behind the scenes, nicely outlined last week in Creative Loafing. The Loaf has a long list of familiar names that will leave the newspaper in the most recent buyout upheaval. Among them: Columnists Furman Bisher (who may continue to write freelance) and Maria Saporta. From the Loaf:

According to sources who said they had direct knowledge, the familiar bylines taking the buyout include golf writer Stan Awtrey, college football editor Tony Barnhart, city and regional editor Arthur Brice, high school sports writer Curtis Bunn, real estate (and former government) reporter Julie Hairston, investigative reporter Ann Hardie, veteran reporter Bill Hendrick, news feature writer Michelle Hiskey, “Technobuddy” columnist Bill Husted, higher ed reporter Andrea Jones, film reviewer Longino, Gwinnett reporter Rebecca McCarthy, Cobb reporter Tom Opdyke, Horizon reporter David Pendered and Saporta.

The article says that 73 AJC staffers accepted the buyout. The high number means the AJC will avoid involuntary layoffs of editorial staff. But imagine being among those left behind; this Loaf quote from an unnamed staffer says it best: “All the people who are leaving wish they were staying; all the people who are staying wish they were leaving.”

AJC 2.0

As traumatic as it’s been for the AJC in the last 18 months— including a sizable, ongoing round of staff reductions and layoffs— it seems there’s more to come. The AJC has been targeting February 2009 as the launch of what it calls AJC 2.0. The date coincides with the use of a new printing press.

AJC 2.0 will include a major redesign of the “dead tree” version of the newspaper, as well as the AJC’s web site. It may also involve elimination or radical redesigns of some sections. The Sunday editorial section known as “@Issue” seems especially endangered, according to editor Julia Wallace as interviewed by Ken Edelstein of Creative Loafing.

“Basically what we heard is people want us to be a newspaper. They want it very newsy. They have a high expectation on watchdog news. They want us to be local. They want that national and international mix, so they can go to one place and be efficient about it but they depend on us for local news and expect that… They want good pacing. They want short. They want long. But they want to make sure that if it’s long, it’s worth it. They want differing forms. They want Q & As and pros and cons. … It’s a redesign that we’ve worked with a designer out of Montreal on that is very focused on making it easy to navigate and find what you want, and it’s gotten rave reviews.”

Wallace’s semi-incoherence shows how dangerous it is for news managers to try to make sense of audience research.

In the interview, Wallace suggests that the AJC will fixate on its Sunday newspaper, with promotion of the weekday papers de-emphasized. She also claims that ajc.com is metro Atlanta’s most-visited website. The question will continue to be: How to make it a moneymaker.

We’re already irritated with the AJC’s reorganization and belt-tightening. We’re irritated with its per-issue price increase for a product that’s in steady decline. In the interview with Edelstein, Wallace implies that the AJC may devote fewer resources to long-term investigative projects. That would be unwelcome.

We’re also irritated to read that the AJC is sending Jennifer Brett, “the social butterfly,” to Beijing to cover Atlanta residents (including, we suspect, a few of the publisher’s rich friends) attending the Olympics. “I am purely going for the partying, not the sports!” sputters a lawyer quoted in Brett’s column this morning. This, from a newspaper that couldn’t trouble itself to cover the presidential primaries outside of Georgia.

We’d like to see the February redesign be more than window dressing. We’re not optimistic that will happen.