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homelessness | media criticism

It's a Cold World

While blathering endlessly on about the storm last week, the corporate media persistently ignored the very real threat this weather posed to people without homes to go to. Instead, they used up their considerable resources on ski reports, coy entertainment stories and harangues about the inconvenience of it all.
Today, I have an update to share on the perspective of at least one corporate reporter where this issue is concerned.
Indy readers will no doubt remember that last week, KPTV blatantly ignored a real story about real suffering in the storm. They turned away from a homeless man who was unable to get into a shelter, and turned back to the fluffy and mindless "storm team 12" coverage of snowballs and pretty icicles. KPTV wasn't alone in its disregard for the consequences of sub-freezing temperatures on homeless people, but they were certainly more brazen and willful about it.

Yesterday, I had an interesting encounter with Jim Hyde, long-time reporter in Portland. While wandering around killing time after the Cheney beheading at Pioneer Square, I happened back on the rowdy little band of protesters near City Hall. When I arrived, they were having a heated debate with Mr. Hyde. It seems they had found him and a camera operator trying to interview someone in front of City Hall, and they interrupted his broadcast. Jim was livid, but to his credit, he stayed and talked to the people. He was stunned and baffled by the encounter, at first calling the protesters "stupid" and "foolish," saying they surely were "more intelligent than that." They held their ground, though. One young woman insisted, "The airwaves belong to us." She pointed out that the corporate media is hijacking the voice of the people. Mr. Hyde just shook his head, but again, he did stay to listen. I think he may even think about some of what was said. Later, though, and not on the air.

In the midst of the discussion, someone asked what story he was working on that was so important he couldn't give the protesters a voice. Wasn't what they had to say at least as important as whatever it was he was "reporting" on? Jim explained that his story had "nothing to do with you." (Like we didn't know that already.) He then divulged that the very important story was "about all the snow, the storm from last week." No. Could it be? Are they STILL talking about it? Yes, this time, the angle was the paid leave city and county workers got for the work they missed last week.

It was the perfect moment to ask something I have been very curious about. I couldn't resist. With my camera rolling, I asked him, "What do you think about the fact that homeless people were freezing in the streets during the storm?" I had intended to pursue the issue by asking why KPTV had so forcefully ignored this story. But I was so taken aback by his reply that I was too stunned to follow up. He looked right into my camera and said, "Tough." Tough? I wanted more. Icicles and snowballs make a story, but people freezing to death is just, tough? "LIfe is tough," he repeated.

So it is.
sickening 14.Jan.2004 17:05

tally

So 'life is tough'...that's all Jim Hyde had to say about people freezing to death. Never mind them. Let's find out if someone got paid when they shouldn't have. It is so stunning that I hardly know how to react to this article. Of course, watching some of the media coverage, I soon realized that nothing of substance was going to be addressed. What I thought was, 'they just don't know.' But they did know...they know now, that people are suffering and they just turn away. That is why we have to turn away as well...stop buying into this kind of life (and death) and form our own solid communities.

Interesting side note 14.Jan.2004 18:55

Media Watch

KPTV, along with other corporate media stations, has a "Wanted" section on its website. Are these people journalists or cops? Well, obviously not journalists. No wonder they always excuse police brutality and blame the citizens of this city for the violence of the police. They think THEY are cops.

Want really tough? 14.Jan.2004 19:11

Love

Mr Hyde would understand tough better, if we could all pick a few channel twelve news sponsors, and register our disgust with them, as well as our unwillingness to buy their products as long as Jekyll's alter ego is employed there. Now, THAT'S tough.

Daily Meditation 14.Jan.2004 19:35

Bill

Easy enough to be taken aback. Outrage is cheap.

Might be more useful to think about it.

What kind of mind thinks life is so tough as to justify freezing to death, yet not tough enough to excuse interrupting some fluffy infotainment?

What kind of mind thinks it is "intelligent" to let someone die who could easily be helped, but "stupid" to let someone have a day's which they didn't work for?

What kind of mind things it is better to leave someone dying at the side of the road, than to risk giving them something they don't deserve?

Love is right 15.Jan.2004 07:48

Bell flower

I really like Love's idea of boycotting the sponsors on channel 12, and letting them know why. It will be difficult to watch that channel long enough to see who sponsors it, but I will make a start on it today. This is one way to speak out. Let's give it a try!

On boycotting 15.Jan.2004 08:21

CatWoman

Boycott ALL the corporate media, starting with KATU, and moving up through the channels. (I think KATU is the worst.) I would love to see people contacting sponsors, too. But let's not focus this only on Jim Hyde. He's merely a symptom of the disease that is corporate media. Whatever his personal feelings, it was a decision made somewhere in the ether above him that kept the homeless issue off the air throughout the storm.

Yeh, Jim said a lot of ridiculous things in that interview. (I think my favorite was when he was challenged on corporate coverage of recent police violence in the city. He seemed to concede that this was an issue that wasn't covered accurately, but then excused the police violence because "verbal bombs" were being thrown by protesters. Sticks and stones....) But the problem here is not the dense-ness of a single street reporter, but a conscious and blatant effort to erase the people's voice and to control public opinion. This effort takes place all the way up to the top of the corporate media ladder.

why do you even watch tv? Dr.Jeckyl and Mr.Hyde 15.Jan.2004 08:45

lucky weda

Okay, so we all know that corporate media (just about every news broadcast on tv) does not have the peoples interests at heart. And let's face it, PBS sux too ( except for Sesame Street), afterall, they are funded by Exxon-Mobil are they not? (Exon-Mobil Masterpiece ring any bells?)

So, what can the people do, besides barraging a jerk like Mr.Hyde, who doesn't have enough Dr.Jeckyl in him, with questions that he has no humanitarian answers for.

For starters, protest against the FCC's most likely and imminent decision to give corporations more killing room or it's going to get a lot worse (for example, one-sided information on politics, terrorism, snowballs, etc.).

And there are obviously other newssources, (you're reading this aren't you?) support you local volunteer run radio station. Recycle some paper and make a zine. Volunteer at a shelter. And if you care about homeless people, take one in on a cold night; you don't have to give them money(usually a bad idea) because a meal and a warm place to sleep is much better.

The corporate media ladder 15.Jan.2004 11:48

Bill

The corporate media ladder does not prop up Jim Hyde.

Jim Hyde and thousands like him prop up the corporate media ladder.

Without him, the ladder would fall over faster than the cops could suit-up in their silly plastic costumes.

Yes, if he were to step back, there would be two, three, many scratching and pulling hair to take his place. We need to attack the mind-set not the people. The sin not the sinner.

Nonetheless, we also need him to step back. To be seen to step back. Him and many others.

That may not be so difficult as at first it seems. Hyde is not entirely unconscious of his contradictions.

to bill 15.Jan.2004 12:24

CatWoman

Point taken.

to Catwoman 15.Jan.2004 12:57

Bill

I take your point, that Jim Hyde is a human being.

Forgive me for running with it.

He is human, except for his unpleasant profession, generally a nice guy. Our goal is not to induce in him Calvinistic despair, not to drive him into the oppressors' machine; but to help the nice guy win over the professional.

Never forgetting to protect ourselves from the claws of the latter.

More 15.Jan.2004 15:24

Bill

This is not about Jim. It is about the professional. Not alone the professional reporter. It is about all professionals who relate to 'the masses', including political activists.

The pretence of neutrality is only the shallowest lie in 'unbiased reporting'. There is a far more profound and damaging lie.

Except narcissists, nobody is capable of unbias. Real people, healthy people, care.

So, the professional dissociates. He acts like he doesn't care. He teaches us, by example and by statement, not to care. CNN teaches us that bombs are exciting. CNN teaches us that people shredded and burning don't matter.

In fact, the professional goes a little beyond not caring. Because not to care is fundamentally inhuman. He invents 'reasons' why nobody should care, why the victim deserves it. And he asserts these lies aggressively. By tongue or by twitch.

His need to feel human demands it.

Keep up the pressure 15.Jan.2004 16:17

Sybil

While corporate media can never be expected to report on anything truly important, relevant, or honest, we should nevertheless keep their feet to the burners on Indymedia. For too long corporations and individuals with money have gotten away with their lies, omissions, and support for death, warmongering, and corporate tyranny, for the benefit of their own profiteering. There is nothing they find more terrifying than having these actions called out for what they are, and this cannot happen often enough.
It's time their actions and contempt for the public wellbeing are cast out into the open. They are attemtping to rape this country of its last vestiges of free speech, free thought, and humanity, while hoping the public will be too braindead by now to hold them accountable. They are commiting crimes against us, and it is up to us to dish out the punishments.
Since it is virtually impossible to communicate with these people on a level of humanity, it is necessary to speak with them in the only language they understand - loss of money. Whether it is the corporate media telling us Portland residents dying is unimportant and "tough," or its local business owners contributing to the 2004 Bush buyout of America, or its local developers lying to us about destroying our communities with Starbucks, its time we send a message loud and clear that they will suffer consequences. "Contempt for the Public" in the name of corporate profit should henceforth be viewed as a crime, and as guardians of our communities and our earth it is only appropriate that we respond with whatever punishments we deem appropriate to fit the crime.

? 15.Jan.2004 17:24

jack

My wife said she actually did see quite a bit of coverage of the problems that homeless people and shelters were facing, and that they were asking for donations and help. Did no one else see this?

To Jack 15.Jan.2004 22:16

media Watch

Indeed, three separate corporate channels addressed the issue of homeless people on the streets -- four days after the freeze began, and two hours after an article in indymedia (also by CatWoman) suggested revocation of broadcasting licenses for their lack of public service in the face of this crisis. As noted in that article, the corporate media ignored the crisis for four days, even when a homeless man walked right up to a live camera and informed the audience (before being cut off) that he was freezing and unable to get into a shelter. Even when a person froze to death under a bridge. They never left our screens, but they never once addressed this issue until they feared for their broadcasting licenses.

Also noted in that article was the fact that the corporate broadcasters had all the resources of our public airwaves available to them, and failed to use them for good. At the same time, indymedia readers/writers came together on this site to find a solution. Someone posted an artlce here asking for ideas on what to do. An hour later, people came together, set up a temporary shelter, hit the streets looking for people who needed to come in from the cold, and saved at least two lives.

Response to Jack 15.Jan.2004 22:16

BattleCry!

Yes, there was a broadcast the day after someone posted criticism of them on indy(which was featured). I forget which channel. It was too little almost too late however, as the weather was starting to warm up by that point and 3 people had already frozen to death.

To Jack 15.Jan.2004 22:28

Sybil

Yes, the corporate media began covering this about a day or two after a story was posted on PDX indymedia about the corporate media's attempts to hide this story when it hit them in the face and the scarce mention of a homeless man's death in the snow. One of the subsequent comments gave the contact info for that channel so that the community could state loud and clear that this story should have been covered. Of course, once one channel started covering it, all the others followed suit in keeping with the homogonized newscasting that attempts to avoid such problems. By rejecting this sort of conformity and keeping the community informed about the real news, Indymedia throws a stick in the works of the corporate media methods of keeping us ignorant and quiet.

More on the story 16.Jan.2004 07:00

CatWoman

Indeed, the corporate news finally found their compassion and commitment to the community within hours of the condemnation of them here. Interestingly, at least three stations (KPTV, KOIN, KGW) all suddenly discovered homeless people at the same moment. (As BattleCry said, though, it was only after the city was warming back up and after their "storm team coverage" was no longer relevant to the situation.) Isn't it interesting how, out of the millions of stories going on in the world every day, all the network stations always have the exact same lineup, in the exact same order? Try it some time: If you're forced to watch corporate media, flip between channels in the middle of a news show. The same big story leads, the same smaller stories follow, the angle is usually the same. Why would that be? Hmmmmm.

Back to the storm coverage, though. Actually, it's not generally known, but we really CAN take back the air by demanding the revocation of a broadcasting license. They know that, but they count on us not knowing that. When that was challenged here, they realized they needed to do something to counter criticism that they ignored the serious crisis that was happening in the streets. That's why stories about loaves and fishes and Outside In suddenly appeared shortly after the criticism of them here.

sorry 16.Jan.2004 08:23

weda

sorry if that published twice, this stupid thing popped up and I clicked "no" -thought it canceled it.

wow, nevermind 16.Jan.2004 09:48

lw

nevermind

Not to pick on Jack 16.Jan.2004 09:53

Bill

It is not just the relevant professionals.

People have come to believe that news is reporting long after the possibility of helping has passed.

It is no longer news. It is admission, perhaps flaunting, of failure.

Gatto claims the one of the aims of the 'education' system is to teach helplessnes, to teach the futility of trying.

Or of caring.

No Preemptive Newscasting 16.Jan.2004 11:17

North Portlander

The "after the fact" news coverage (which is easier to do . . . you just show up and report what you see) is symptomatic of the way so many things are handled in this country. Take health care, for example, where far too many insurance plans will cover "to cure" but not "to prevent". Sitting back like the grasshopper while the ants of the world are working and then complaining because there's no food when winter comes doesn't solve any problems.

A responsible network would have liaised with community emergency and other agencies to provide useful information and tips about how to prepare for the weather . . . how to help neighbors . . . how to make sure no one suffered or froze.

Instead, with a few exceptions, the only thing that happened was a combined celebration and breathless photo show of snarled cars, broken pipes, and stranded people . . . with new low records being set!!

And then a tardy plea for people to come in and donate blood afterwards. Good Lord, couldn't anybody see that one coming ahead of time?

Most of the news was only useful to motorists who would never see it if they were stuck in their cars in traffic.

all i'm saying 17.Jan.2004 13:13

kurtkabang

Here is a story about my only encounter with Jim Hyde:

When we did the Ron Wyden sit-in during the vote to authorize force in Iraq, we sent out press releases to all of the press we could think of. Noone from the Oregonian, noone from WW or the Mercury or OPB, or streetroots, or any of several radio stations, and noone from the Tribune showed up. Several Indymedia people came and attended all day and did good stories on the event, Dave Mazza from the Alliance came and stayed all day (but I never saw an article--doesn't mean one didn't come out), one TV news camera (with no reported) from a station I can't remember came out for about 5 minutes, and Jim Hyde and a camera person came out. Jim stayed for about 45 minutes, he took his time interviewing people outside and in. He was incredibly respectful of us, friendly, he asked intelligent, thoughtful questions. I was somewhat shocked because I expected him to be a jerk, being from KPTV and such.

Preconceived notions are usually wrong, but only when two people treat each other with respect.

I can remember only one quote from him, "I cannot see how anyone, anywhere can be for this war." I also remember him voicing some frustration with the limitations of TV--playing to the public and the boss. He struck me as someone on our side that was doing what he could within very tight external limitations. A reformer from the inside.

That evening KPTV was (in my memory) the only TV news that actually played footage from the sit in. In fact, Jim not only covered the sit in, but made us look like heroes. At the end, he credited us with forcing Ron Wyden's hand and making him vote against the resolution! This was more than even we thought about our impact and went far in pushing the idea that direct democracy can work.

I'm only reporting this to give another side of the issue and urge people to be nice to each other until that no longer works. You may be surprised at how much more effective that is.

Yeah 18.Jan.2004 13:04

Bill

I see your intention.

However, you are saying it in a way which implies that the other folks who posted above advocate being un-nice to Jim. That is not true.

Most posters focused on the corporations. Catwoman insists Jim is a good person, except for some attitudes which she needs to tell because (it seems to me) she does not understand them. I say that Jim, like everyone, holds some contradictory attitudes, which can be separated and which he appears to distinguish. You have told another story of Jim putting off the corporate uniform.

Be nice to people. Yes. It is the only way we can win this struggle.

Be intelligent, too. When people put on their uniforms, whether they be vader costumes, mao jackets, video cameras, or for that matter obnoxious drunks, be wary of the attitudes which they put on with the suits.

Addenda 18.Jan.2004 13:29

Bill

We must appeal to the uniforms as well as the human beings inside. Because they are joined at the hip, deep down inside. The reporter, and the drunk, have needs, too. They definitely do not need nice, but they need.

Even the poor sucker in the vader costume. ... two tracks :

Those vader costumes do not need to be so awkward, hot, heavy, constricting, all that equipment bouncing, bruising spines and thighs. They are designed to constrict the wearers spirit as well as his body. The costumes are designed to irritate, to edge tempers towards violence.

The other thing... maybe we better remove the kevlar and dress in blues... Cops are taught to provoke fear and resentment. No human being wants that, humans know fear breeds explosive violence. Cops are also taught that cringing is a mark of the criminal personality. They are taught a lot of things. They are drilled to make snap reactions which profoundly conflict with all their myriad inside-the-uniform human personalities. Like anyone, if you drop one into a swineherd, they will run with the herd.

Like Jim Hyde, when a cop is ordered to throw his bicycle at some kids back, he has to convince himself that it is a cold, cold world.