Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Since I've been getting a lot of emails on my opinion about that CNN report, HOMICIDE IN HOLLENBECK, there's obviously some interest. Yes I did see it and frankly, I didn't think it was very good.

The problems and weird reporting illustrated in that CNN story is actually one of the reasons I started this blog. As my knowledge and understanding of LA neighborhoods grew, the more I realized that the big media way way off the mark in terms of understanding and simple factual truth. All they want is some dramatic footage of tattooed homies flashing guns, a heart-broken mom standing on the flower-laden street corner where her child was killed, a talking-head cop with some sound bites about how bad things are and a politician promising to pass some a law that'll "stop the violence." It's bullshit.

I've seen first-hand how the electronic media works. The lack of depth is staggering. One of my readers asked how come that program concentrated on EL SERENO when there's so much else going on in Hollenbeck. She was asking if somebody at CNN or LAPD had a hate on for El Sereno. The simple answer is no.

To the people who produce this kind of programming, they wouldn't know the difference between El Sereno, Blythe Street, Rancho San Pedro or a jar of Vick's. It's all the same to them.

The way they work is fast, furious and cheap. A field producer parachutes in from New York or Atlanta or Chicago and hits the ground making phone calls on the way from the airport. They work off a formula: street-wise cop, crying mom, hard core homies with tats and cuetes, a politician and, if they get lucky, a fresh dead body they can roll on as the cops are laying out the yellow tape.

That's it. If a producer can hit the required numbers, they can put the meathead "reporter" on a grimy corner for a stand-up and they can cut the whole package back home and make it look like they've "been there" and told the tale. It's pathetic really because for most news viewers, all they're ever going to learn about neighborhoods is what an out of town field producer can put together in under three days. The footage is king. The "reporting" is just the audio background noise to give your ears something to do while your eyeballs are glued to the blood, tears and footage of a cop drawing down on suspects.

There are some rare exceptions. In LA, we've got Chris Blatchford who has done some deep digging and some really good reporting. His two part story on the Mongols was terrific. But that kind of reporting is rare.

The multi-part saga that the LA DAILY NEWS did last year on gangs was a dissapointment. With that much space and all the resources the paper threw at the issue, they basically did a TV style job. They did it by the numbers. This was a case of tissue-thin TV reporting influencing the print media. Instead of aspiring to something deeper, they did a paper and ink version of the TV approach.

It's not all bad news, however. Some great stuff can come out of the most unexpected places. The single best piece ever written about THE BRAND, for instance, came out of the NEW YORKER about a year ago. And I've seen some really good documentaries on cable, most notably the one on the Latin Kings that still airs on occasion.

For the most part, don't expect the media to ever give you an accurate reflection of what's going on in the barrio or la pinta. If you want to find a nugget of gold in that mountain of slag, read and view the big media with caution. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, "They can't handle the truth."


John Shannon said...

Actually, you're paraphrasing Jack Nicholson the accused officer raging at Tom Cruise, but the point is clear.

Wally said...

Hey, John Thanks for the correction. You're absolutely right, of course, It was Jack. I've made the correction and thanks for being such an attentive reaader. Gold star for you.

Anonymous said...

The part of the program that interested me most was the segment on Father Boyle. By showing Father Boyle's story, then showing the officers' rebuttle of what he's doing; The program pretty much opened up a new can of worms.

It seems to me that police in that area believe Father Boyle is an enabler to the gangs, an apoligist, or...'an enemey within', to use good old fashioned 'war on terror' slang. Shit, THERE'S A CNN SPECIAL in and of itself! The L.A. County Sheriffs VS. Father Boyle. THERE'S as story.

Anonymous said...

HOMOCIDE IN HOLLENBECK SUCKED!!! didn't it,thanks for taking time on this issue,FATHER BOYLE has impacted many lives for the better,reallity is he has changed gang members,and due to that fact may have saved lives.and these cops wanna take shots at FATHER BOYLE'S efforts!!thats a slap to our community,the ones that live here,we want it safer,but some cops just love the drama,dont know crap even when they step on it.WHAT A SHAME!!!they got everybody down as gangmembers check the stats they are highly exagerrated,one said he cant force change on gangsters!DUHH! he's not suppose to!!thats not his job,some cops are good,but some just ruin it for the rest.You saw the program c'mon,cops even laughing at the postmans truck with graffiti!thats not funny.maybe when your off duty sippin on a cold on,but on national T.V.?no morals,these guys act like gangs are something new,Gangs have been around before they even hit the academy.So if they want to make a difference then work on prevention programs.One officer has complaints and got a promotion.
These cops patrol my neighborhood
and they punk everybody,there are good cops out here too.those everybody respects even the gangsters,but not these guys, WHAT A SHAME CNN BOUGHT THAT CRAP!!!!!
one cop said about his write up(what should i go stick my head in the sand,sit behind a dek?)WELL NO BUDDY EXCEPT THE FACT YOU SCREWED UP APOLOGIZE AND DO A BETTER JOB,because that sounded like defiance on his part!and when you get written up its for a good reason!!!things like this dont make a change for the better,it just adds more flame to the fire,what happen to the days when an officer gave kids baseball cards,talked to our people with respect,even talked to gangsters with respcet,and in turn the homies would respect them atleast to a certain degree,now they are like all rude,strong handed,full of assumptions and instagations.
there needs to be better training or screening,as for gangs well save our children educate them about the dangers,prevention is the key,reach them before they join a gang,
You know we cant stop aids completely,but with plenty of prevention,and eduction about the symptoms would make many people think twice,the statistics would drop alot,thats how you should approach this gang issue,tell the kids the truth,they see violence on t.v. anyways,and i bet they wont think its cool to be gangster.
YOUR not gonna make a difference by arrestting everybody you think is a gangster,and hope the problem is solved,start saving the young ones,our future,before they step on shit,and for the ones that already stepped on it,let them wipe their own feet,

Anonymous said...

In Sacramento, there is an injuction on a West Sacramento gang called the Broderick Boys; They are a norteno gang.

I happen to have relatives from the very neighborhood of Broderick. I've seen the neighborhood, pretty much, several times per year since the '70s.

The Sacramento Bee did a story claiming that there are 350 hard core gang members in the Broderick gang. There is no bleeping way. Maybe about 20 hard core members. A handful that will actually kill someone; And even they are likely allready on probation.

So, to the above poster, I understand what your saying about news agencies hyping up the numbers in regards to gang membership.

Note- The city of West Sacramento is also going through a huge development phase in the very area of the injuction. Condos, business flats, resturaunts, the whole works. The neigborhood is right across the river from Old Sacramento, and old west style disctrict with nice resturuants, etc.

So, can anyone say; "GENTRIFICATION"?

Gang violence is real. And I'm not deyning that. I undesrtand the police do have a tough job in policing gangs. But what's going on in Sacramento with the injuctions is really making me question the validity of gang related stories from, if not making me downright cynical of, ALL media outlets.

Anonymous said...

I also forgot to mention above; The Broderick neighborhood of West Sacramento is also home to the Sacramento River Cats, a minor league AAA affiliate of the Oakland A's. The small stadium holds about 20,000, and is PACKED for every single game. It should go without mentioning that almost ALL of the people who attend games are white suburbians. So, you can throw that into the injuction politics as well.

The Bookhouse Boy said...

I have never lived in LA and I could tell that that LA Daily News series was garbage. I even emailed the reporters a question about "stoner gangs," which they talked about. I was under the impression they weren't around any more, so I asked the reporters where they got their info from. Never heard back from them.

Anonymous said...

I live in el sereno and i was harrased by some cops(i wont mention any names)but the dummies continued to pull me over practiculy everyday for no reason,they took down my info and put it on a little card after i told them that i dont gangbang,just cause im bald,thats sad,i didnt think shaving your head was a crime,Im just a big shaq fan,but they stereotyped me,but if you were to take me and those two officers in a room,butt naked,you wouldnt be able to tell us apart,they shave their heads!have mustaches and goat tee's,you know the typical gangster look!hmmmm....maybe thats their mentallity as well,gangsta!who knows im no expert,but maybe their shaq fans too,NOT!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the incompetence in CNN's "Hollenbeck" as well.

But one thing worth noting is that at least the program shed a light on just how anti-social the gang scene in East L.A. has become.

Being far from L.A., I must say that the vision I had of the White Fence gang was the one I saw in the film, "Colors"; A group of 25-ish, veteranos kicking back, listening to Brenton Woods and shooting the shit with Officer Hodges.

Today you have what seems like suicidal maniacs, heads shaved with "W..F.." tattooed across their domes. Pretty much a reality check for me.

Granted, "Colors" is just a movie; But I've heard from many sources that "Colors" portayed Mexican gangs fairly realistically. (Allthough missing the mark with Black gangs, I'm told.)

So, you have to at least give CNN an "F" for Effort; Which beats the, "INC." grade the rest of the national media deserves in regards to covering an epidemic such as this.

Anonymous said...

So will the "real" expert please punch in and tell it like it is? I agree with the negative observations about the way the street life is portrayed by the media so ....... ? I'm a Chris Blatchford fan, myself, and short of a "Homie Reality Show" or a hidden camera revealing the real deal, the consuming public simply takes a CNN as Gospel.

Anonymous said...

YOU its funny the crap that comes out on t.v.these cops in hollenbeck
are suppose to be anti-gang units
but they have nicknames for themselves......I wont mention them
but its like their a gang far can they get away with this,its scarey out
here,its no joke!they have some fucked up ways,i wish they would go by the book so no one could
complain an we could trust them
and feel protected,but we get harrassed and abused by the police
than the gangmembers themselves,
we need a voice for the voiceless





Anonymous said...

I've been to Homeboy Industries. I personally know Father Greg Boyle, and I've been employed by The Los Angeles Police Department as a Police Officer.

When Father Greg founded Homeboy Industries, he was answering a vocational calling. As he mentioned, he is called to be faithful, and not successful although I absolutely know that his works have resulted in a great deal of success. The success stories were sorely missing from "Homicide in Hollenbeck."

Prevention, intervention and supression are all needed to address the gang issue. It is not the job of the police to remove tattoos, help find jobs, and provide continuous counseling to those who are at risk. This is where Homeboy Industries greatly helps the community by providing services not offered by a tax supported center.

The remark by one of the CRASH officers suggested that Homeboy Industries does not help the community at all which is way off base. That officer needs to realize that the community must unite and pools their resources in order to make Los Angeles a better place to live.

Yes, some of the people who utilize the services of Homeboy Industries do recitivate back to our jails and prisons, as the officer stated. But many do succeed thanks to Homeboy Industries. It is also true that some LAPD officers have committed crimes, and are imprisoned. That doesn't mean the LAPD isn't doing any good as the officer inferred about Homeboy Industries.

The LAPD must continue to provide supression by arresting offenders. Effective policing is necessary and is supported by Father Greg.

We must all realize that gang violence is a symptom that tells us that something else is wrong, and there is no one who is doing a better job of making our communities a happier place to live than Father Gregory Boyle.

Anonymous said...

I remember a time in SERENO when the huras would come down in a van,pick your ass up and beat the shit out of you and dump you for dead in some other varrio like clover or hazard or even kick your ass in front of your homies and familias just for the hell of it. It was all in a day's work for those SS troops and nobody said shit! To all you punk ass chavas crying about corrupt cops nowadays...That ain't shit mijo! You cubs have it easy. Does the name sgt. ellington ring a bell to you mocosos? Didn't think so! Don't be chiones and do something about what you see wrong or just shut your asses up and take it like alot of us old farts did back in the day...Es todo... VIVA SERENO CALLE LOCKE Y Los lost but not forgotten SERENO CUTDOWNS!

Anonymous said...

The only firme thing about that CNN special was when the huda was at his computer scrolling down the list of barrios in LA County and he stopped where it said EL MONTE HAYES, all I got to say to that is "QUE VIVA EL MONTE HAYES!!

Alex said...

Thanks for the post. I saw the CNN special and am trying to find a quote by Boyle that I really liked. Anderson Cooper asked him if he ever felt like he was being taken advantage of and he responded with something like, "No, I give my advantage out freely every day." What a great response. If anybody knows where I can find the exact quote, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

CHRIS BLATCHFORD the king of doing gang specials you know thats whats so cool about him no matter how dangerous the gangsters look hes brave enough to talk with them and do a documentary i mean theres a lot of people that do documentaries with gangsters but chris blatchford always does them and the other people just do it for one time so thats why CHRIS BLATCHFORD RULZ and is the best in doing documentaries With Gangsters and or Undercover News Specials with Gangbangers from streetgangs

Anonymous said...

ALEX: to your question about Father Greg being taken advantage of. Here is the official text:

COOPER: Do you think you get taken advantage of?

BOYLE: I don't know what that means to be taken advantage of. I give my advantage every day, so nobody's ever taken it from me.
Other great quotes by Greg; when asked if he gives gang members a second chance Greg responded, "Who gave them their first?"

COOPER: Do you write someone off at any point?

BOYLE: Do I think God writes anybody off at any point? Of course not and who would I be to say, well, I'm going to make a decision. Here's the write off point.

Greg is one of the greatest human beings I've ever known!

--The Coach