February 1, 2012

Will Kettling boil away the free press?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 9:27 pm

The World’s Laziest Journalist has known about the origin of the word “stringer” and the explanation of the tradition of typing “XXX” at the end of a story for a long time, perhaps even since when the Rolling Stones were guests on Dean Martin’s TV show, but we had never heard the expression “Kettling” until this week when that word popped up in stories about the events in Oakland last Saturday.

Ironically we had seen an example of Kettling occur in San Francisco last summer but were unaware that what we had seen was one of the first occurrences of kettling.

When police surround and cordon off a group of people and heard everybody (press, perps, protesters and bystanders) into the busses and take them off to a booking facility that is an example of the latest law enforcement trend called “Kettling.”

Initial news reports said that said that Occupy Protesters invaded the YMCA on Saturday night. Later stories explained that the area had been cordoned off and the protesters (and perhaps pedestrians caught in the Kettling?) were trying to pass through the YMCA in an effort to avoid arrest. Would the use of the words like invasion be poor journalism or spin?

Last summer during one of the “No Justice No BART” protests in San Francisco, the police rolled the doors of the Powell Street BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station and detained the people inside their perimeter.

This columnist/photographer took some photos inside that area and then when the doors began to be rolled down, we moseyed outside to get some additional images from a different perspective. Journalists were detained along with protesters. The San Francisco Police glossed over the incident as a bit of a law enforcement agency’s version of a clerical error. The journalists didn’t write many complaints into the various accounts of that event.

If the wealthy media owners don’t want law enforcement officers criticized and express that preference in strong managerial directives, could the paychecks issued to writers, reporters, photographers, and TV camera men, be considered “hush money”? Just asking.

We have seen reports that indicate a similar example of this kind of clerical error may have occurred at some events at Occupy Wall Street in New York City.

Is it too soon to write a trend-spotting story about these examples of kettling?

Hang fire, we’ll send the link to this column to the tip desk at the Columbia Journalism Review and if subsequently, they do a story on Kettling, well then, we can brag about the fact we gave them the “heads-up” on the story. If they ignore the suggestion, then the folks who are firmly convinced that this columnist does moonlighting work at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory will have some more evidence to explain their firm conviction.

Speaking of firm convictions, how are the cases against the Occupy Movement protesters going? Can an effort to use some exemptions to proper procedures be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court to speed up these cases? Aren’t there some privatized prisons with empty cells?

Recently James Richard Armstrong II, a homeless writer in Berkeley CA, has been writing a series of columns for the Smirking Chimp website alleging that various Bay area cities are using some members of a brigade of street sweepers to spearhead an effort to “get rid of” the homeless in the downtown area. If it weren’t for the fact that Darwin BondGraham corroborated Armstrong’s facts in a story that appeared on Page 8 of the January 25 – 31, 2012, print edition of the East Bay Express (and it also appeared online); it would be easy enough for patriotic critics of Armstrong to dismiss his work as another example of a product from the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing for Armstrong’s critics if he appeared on David Letterman’s Show and made his assertions that “things aren’t what they seem” to a nation wide audience?

Some hypersensitive writers for the alternative press media contend that since Columbia University receives research grants from the Government, the politicians in Washington will use that money as a bargaining chip in an effort to convince the college types that “there’s nothing to see here – move along!” is the principle (school pun alert?) that should be use to make any decisions about the trend-spotting journalism value of such material originating in the digital era version of the underground press.

We could dig out some digital files from the event last summer and some from last weekend, and add images to this posting, but lately our inclination is to just add photos to the end of the week wrap-up columns.

[We’ve got a question for the folks who enjoy the esoteric and sometimes enigmatic information that is liberally scattered about in our columns: “If the name of the San Francisco’s guy who claimed to be the World’s Greatest Disk Jockey was Don Sherwood why did locals call it the Will Sherwood Show?]

In the pre Internets era some newspaper writers were paid (what’s that?) on a per column inches basis. I.e. the amount of material that got published would be used to determine their pay check. Editors would take the bound copy of last month’s issue and use a ball of string to measure out all the writer’s stories for that particular time period. If all the fellow’s stories used up 35 inches of string and if his pay rate was $10 an inch – wait just a dang minute, let’s call it a buck an inch – you do the math. (It doesn’t take a professional trend-spotter to know that Americans are going to get used to smaller paychecks.) That’s how the part time editorial employees got to be called stringers.

In the age of telegraphed news stories there was no word with three x’s in a row. (That was before adult movies started to run ads in newspapers.) So the telegraphers got in the habit of designating the end of a story by inserting XXX, which was the Roman numeral for “thirty.”

Speaking of which . . .

To be continued . . . (but not necessarily tomorrow.)

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