My Poynter blog: Should media move slower to lionize Amanda Berry rescuer Charles Ramsey?
As news media rushes to tell the story of Charles Ramsey -- the guy who says he dropped his Big Mac to help rescue Amanda Berry from her 10-year imprisonment in an Ohio home -- I wrote a story for Poynter.org asking an uncomfortable question.
Should news media be moving a little slower to lionize the guy one news outlet called "the Internet hero we've been waiting for?"
First, there's the revelation that Ramsey has his own felony convictions for domestic abuse in his past, uncovered by The Smoking Gun website. And there's the allegation floated by the other guy who was at the scene, Angel Cordero, that he was the guy who actually kicked out the door to help Berry escape.
And there's the troubling sign of how Ramsey fits the stereotypes of the "hilarious black crime witness"; is one reason there's autotune videos, loads of tweets and blog posts about him the fact that he so resembles the oddball crime witness we've seen highlighted in so many local TV news stories?
I'm not down with those who immediately say Ramsey's viral fame is mostly about prejudice or stereotypes. But it references them enough to make me significantly uncomfortable.
What struck me on first seeing Ramsey -- promising Anderson Cooper earlier this week "you gonna love this; I'm fixin' to tell it all" -- was that he seemed so ready to tell his story to the endless line of TV cameras. It's something I saw in the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Texas refinery explosion; we've seen so many news stories where bystanders or good samaritans or relatives of victims tell their stories to TV crews, average people know the role they're expected to play.
As the closest person to the rescue most willing to tell his story openly, Ramsey seemed to be re-enacting a scenario we've seen many times in news coverage -- and as a gifted natural storyteller, he knew what was required.
My Poynter piece talks a bit about what all this means for news media; check it out by clicking here.