inappropriate coverage

I do not watch the news.

I am not well-informed.  Maybe mediocrely-informed.

Unfortunately, CNN is on constant blast in the break room at work, and while it’s marginally useful when something’s actually going on – perhaps you wanna catch the inauguration of the first black president or something – day-today news pretty much sucks.  Because the news is depressing.  It’s always bad.

Maybe not always. Sometimes it’s stupid.  Or…not even news.  But it’s mostly bad.

And I’m not saying that I don’t want to know what’s going on, but watching something like a news channel [bad news on a 30min loop for 24hrs a day] can make you wanna pluck your eyes out on a not-so-bad day.

Friday was a *bad* day.

There I was sitting at the table with my coworkers, when a story/video (reading the story is preferable to watching it) from Haiti came up.  There were reporters talking about a police shooting they’d just witnessed.  It sounded like they had British accents, but I didn’t hear where they were actually from.  Anyway – they talked about how they’d been riding down the street in their van and seen two guys with bags of rice detained by some cops.  There was yelling back and forth [cops saying that the dudes had stolen the rice, the dudes saying it’d been a gift].  And then, there were shots fired.

The news crew went over to film what was happening, and found one of the guys shot in the back, laying on the ground, gasping for breath.  And filmed it.  And CNN showed us this nameless man, accused of looting rice, bleeding, gasping for breath, and dying on the pavement of a street in Port-au-Prince.

I turned away, but it was too late.  I still see him.  Every time I think about it my eyes well up, and I think – that shouldn’t have been shown – should it?  I mean, maybe I shouldn’t want to censor the news, maybe I shouldn’t be turning away because it’s upsetting…but it just feels wrong.

The story continued to say that a police supervisor came along and said that this was improper and would be looked into and that an ambulance would be called.  Two hours later the young man’s mother was by his side, to mourn, as he still laid there on the pavement.  The news crew further elaborated that they’d talked with shopowners along the street and found that a truck had gone by and ostensibly, some bags of rice fell off the truck.  The shopowners said that there hadn’t been any looting there.

Obviously, Haiti has some serious issues with corruption, along with all of the destruction due to this horrific earthquake disaster.  But is this the way to spotlight injustice?  Should we really be watching the last breaths of a man shot on the street – innocent OR guilty?

I think not.

BiA, BiA

I think that our stories are just as universal as anybody else’s. It’s been a struggle to prove that true.  That the stories of African Americans are universal, and therefore should not be ghetto-ized. [Spike Lee, CNN’s BiA celeb interviews]

I thought I was done.  But I just had to include this quote from Spike Lee.  Funny that his clip directly follows Soledad’s own, in which she says

I think we’re going to answer a lot of questions.  But also, by answering some, raise a lot of hard questions. It’s not the definitive answer.  It’s to really look at issues, and explore why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans.  And I hope some people feel a little uncomfortable about things that they see.

And I think people will recognize themselves in a lot of the stories we’ll tell.  And I think people will see the joy of being in a big, connected family that’s struggled through a lot.  And I think people will be taken through the sorrows of people who’ve lost young people to violence.

It’s gonna make people think.  African Americans will get to see sort of where they’ve come from and also the opportunities that lie ahead.  And that many people have achieved. I think all of America will get a good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country.  For good and for bad. [Soledad O’brien]

Yep – that’s what she said.  “Why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans” [emphasis mine].  Why is that?  I didn’t catch that part.  Although I was uncomfortable with some of what I saw…I’m not sure that kind of uncomfortable is what she was going for.

Maybe my biggest issue is that I didn’t see myself in the stories she told.  Perhaps the heart of it all is my own narcissism in wanting to be a part of the ‘Black in America’ story.

Maybe it’s the memory of wanting to be ‘black enough’ that got to me.  The stereotype that I was fed that told me that if I didn’t speak with a vocabulary full of slang, if I didn’t wear certain clothes, if I didn’t listen to certain music – I wasn’t black.  And now, this “good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country” has excluded my picture.  I’d say it struck a nerve.

Most of all, I though the piece missed the mark in regards to Spike Lee’s comment in the beginning.  The stories told were not necessarily universal stories [though there are indeed people of every race who can relate to being poor, or affected by violence, etc], but more like stereotypical stories.  ‘Ghetto-ized’.

the racism cliche

I’ve received word-of-mouth reminders and advertisements for CNN’s “Black in America” ‘Special Report’ [billed as the culmination of a year’s worth of research] for the last two months, at least.  Emails from black friends, family, and coworkers were filled with save-the-date type notices telling me to set my dvr for the special.  No one had seen it, but sadly, the intimation that it would be respectful got a whole lotta black people happy: (“We’re gonna be on tv! In a good way!”)  And then of course, the incessant commercials and teaser pieces that landed on CNN itself [which is mercilessly piped into my work cafeteria 24hrs a day].  So I set my dvr.

Then I didn’t watch it.

I guess I started out behind the 8-ball, in terms of being objective, because I tend to not be into email spam.  The host of email I received on the “Special Report” was just enough to belong in that category.  Then there were the commercials on CNN, which seemed to paint the piece as some kind of anthropological expose on an impossible to infiltrate tribe – a white people’s guide to ‘the black experience’, if you will.

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

A coworker watched a lead-in piece on education last wknd, and shared with me that for some reason, he was almost insulted that Soledad O’Brien was hosting the series.  I’ve never had strong feelings about her either way, and looked up her background to see for myself – and perhaps come to her defense.  Indeed, she is quite multicultural, but she is part black.  She’s even a member of the National Assn. for Black Journalists.  I told my coworker, but it seemed to make no real difference to him.  And yes – I did think about the fact that – other than her, and the Larry Smith guy who covers sports – I couldn’t think of any other black people on CNN.  I don’t watch it except when I’m on break/lunch at work – so I could be missing someone.  [Robin Meade looks sufficiently ambiguous, though.]

While avoiding work, I pulled up a lovely lil article on CNN.com ~ the link cleverly titled to get almost everyone to click on the link [especially my demographic]: The article wasn’t quite what I expected.  It turned out to be another piece on how there are so many single black women in America.  That I could’ve done without.  But I continued, forward – giving CNN the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading