Local Media's History of Covering Police Standoffs; New Details for FCC Meeting in Tampa
Some news executives at area media outlets told the Associated Press that requests by local law enforcement not to broadcast details of a 10-hour hostage standoff Thursday in Tampa was an unprecedented event. (all photos of standoffs in this blog post are NOT of the Thursday incident)
"I had never seen anything like it," Bay News 9 news director Mike Gautreau said to AP about the request not to reveal details of the standoff at the Shooting Sports Inc. gun store and shooting range, which required police to shut down Dale Mabry Highway during rush hour.
But the request was rooted in some recent media history.
Back in 2001, Nestor deJesus and his girlfriend Paula Gutierrez took hostages in a Tampa apartment after shooting police officer Lois Marrero. During the three-hour standoff, the pair continually asked about the health of the officer; cable newschannel Bay News 9 reported Marrero's death one hour into the standoff, and DeJesus eventually killed himself. Another TV station, WFTS-Ch. 28, released Marrero's name before her family could be notified, against accepted policy.
Bay News 9's defense was that Tampa police chief Bennie Holder released information on Marrero's death at a news conference. But every media outlet knew the standoff was still ongoing and that the participants might have access to a TV set. Police also said TV stations showed police positions around the area in their helicopter shots and flew so close, the noise made hearing radio communications difficult.
That incident led police to recall the Hank Earl Carr hostage situation in 1998, where Carr killed three police officers and took a hostage at a gas station. Three media outlets, including the St. Petersburg Times, called Carr and interviewed him DURING the standoff, making it impossible for hostage negotiators to talk with him at the same time.
Local media have often struggled to cover hostage situations, which don't happen often. I wrote a column after Marrero's shooting about how area media outlets were torn between the instant memorializing most officers get when killed in the line of duty and their discomfort with disclosing that she was gay and her surviving significant other was of the same sex.
Reaction to the Carr shooting included an effort by legislative giant Ginny Brown-Waite to pass a bill requiring journalists to get signed permission from police to cover crime and accident scenes (apparently, she was using the "hall pass" method of regulating media coverage).
Police also tried to get area media outlets to agree to a shared set of non-binding standards for covering such incidents, such as not showing police positions and keeping helicopters a certain distance. But the agreement went nowhere, as media outlets balked at signing a coverage agreement with an institution they cover regularly and questions about liability -- could they get sued for a violation which leads to injury of death? -- hung in the air.
So area media have grappled with this for a long time. And even though some local outlets reported aspects of the standoff thursday, it looks like they may have found a solution.
Details on FCC Meeting in Tampa
Here's the details:
Because the event will draw all five FCC commissioners to talk about the issue of media conglomerates and whether rules controlling ownership should be loosened, a wide coalition of groups has come together to center advocacy efforts on the event.
They include the Communications Workers of America, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Free Press, Florida AFL-CIO, Florida PIRG, Mid- Atlantic Community Papers Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, The Newspaper Guild, Prometheus Radio Project, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Tampa Bay Community Network, The Tampa Education Channel, United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc., and U.S. PIRG.
Looks like the meeting is going to be an eventful one.
--- Donny Deutsch says hate media is dead. (I'm not betting on it.)
--- Consumer advocates say FCC Deborah Tate has received talking points against the proposed XM-Sirius satellite radio merger from Clear Channel Radio Vice President, Thomas English, one of the country's biggest radio broadcasters and an ardent opponent of the deal. Talk about access!
--- Count the Atlanta Journal-Constitution among those newspapers cutting features staff to shave costs. Creative Loafing Atlanta has a great story on the horrific way Cox Newspapers are handling the cuts, forcing established writers to compete against their colleagues for the few jobs which remain -- like kids caught in some demonic game of journalism muscal chairs.