As coverage of police shootings in St. Petersburg continues, some sources find friendly media outlets for their stories
As local TV stations presented hours of continuous coverage this morning on the funeral ceremony for two murdered St. Petersburg Police officers, the saturation reporting highlighted how the tragedy has challenged and changed the Tampa Bay area's traditional media outlets.
Most recently, some people at the center of this momentous story have chosen non-traditional, friendlier media outlets to tell their stories. On Thursday, Lorraine Yaslowitz talked about her husband, slain police officer Jeffrey Yazlowitz, on Todd "MJ" Schnitt's morning show for WFLZ-FM (93.3). On reason she appeared there: Schnitt's show was a favorite.
Now a coalition of St. Petersburg-based, black-focused media outlets have announced a plans to feature an interview with three members of shooter Hydra Lacy Jr.'s large family; the outlets include The Weekly Challenger newspaper, WRXB-AM (1590) radio and the Power Broker magazine and online newsletter. Tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, the sit-down would include St. Petersburg NAACP president Manuel Sykes and might feature other media figures.
Gypsy Gallardo, publisher of the Power Broker platforms, said the interview grew from an effort by local outlets rooted in the area's black communities to say something about the shootings which have occupied so much of the community's attention this week. She added current plans include allowing the family members to review questions before the interview, a condition mainstream journalists often refuse to grant.
The group faces the daunting task of trying to present the concerns and story of Hydra Lacy's relatives without looking like an apologist for a killer.
"It's important for the family members that the community know they're good people," said Gallardo, who helped arrange the interview in an effort to talk about issues mainstream media outlets might not. "This might also be a platform where the family is more comfortable raising questions about police procedure."
Gallardo acknowledged such talk brings memories of the bitter racial divisions exposed in St. Petersburg in 1996 after the shooting death of TyRon Lewis, a troubled youth who was killed by police officers during a traffic stop. Lewis had refused to stop the car and lurched the vehicle at the officer several times; there was also a felony warrant out for his arrest, according to a St. Petersburg Times story.
The city was torn by rioting after the shooting, as some black leaders accused the police of acting too harshly. Gallardo said similar divisions seem to be emerging on Facebook -- though few doubt Lacy's status as a killer -- as pages entitled "R.I. P. Hydra Lacy Jr." (a page pulled by the service after complaints) and "Hydra Lacy Jr. is a scumbag" fill up with sometimes-explicit messages.
"A lot of (black) folks have questions about police procedure or sympathy for (Lacy's) family," she said. "Whites go all the way from one side of the line (posting) 'rot in hell Hydra Lacy,' to expressing some Christian sympathy for the family."
Already, the shootings have turned traditional media lines upside down, as shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem presented details on the shootings early Monday before traditional journalists. More than passing along details from bystanders on the scene -- like a sex worker did on her Twitter feed, according to the Poynter Institute (NSFW link here) -- Clem and his crew accessed police sources traditionally available just to traditional media, including police officers at the scene.
All of a sudden, even news coverage which once required specialized access by trained professionals is now occurring elsewhere, outside the codes and procedures of traditional reporters. What that means for the typical local media mix is yet to be seen.