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POINTERGATE: KSTP should be ashamed for racist reporting

pointergate photoSo a week or so back I woke up to my Facebook timeline full of a story shared from the website the Daily Kos with the headline, “#pointergate may be the most racist news story of 2014.”

I opened the link and read a story that at first I knew had to be a joke. While I have always trusted the Daily Kos as a site for legitimate news, I was sure this time it got duped. I knew this was a fabricated story akin to something that would have been written and published by The Onion. #pointergate (the social media hashtag that was given to the story that has spawned both outrage and comedy) had to be a joke.

I recognized a few people in the accompanying photo, so if this was a hoax, it was a pretty elaborate one. In the photo was someone I had met and communicated with a couple of times, Wintana Melekin. Also in the photo was the chief of police for the Minneapolis Police Department, Janee Harteau. I recognized her, from covering a few stories, but I’ve never met her. The final two people in the Daily Kos photo were Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (I’ll admit, I didn’t recognize her even though I’ve interviewed her on multiple occasions) and some guy I’d never seen before.

That’s the photo the Daily Kos ran. It wasn’t the photo from the original “news” story that ran. The photo KSTP-TV (channel 5) chose to run was a playful picture of Hodges and the young man who KSTP-TV blurred out and only identified “a two-time convicted felon.” The picture showed Hodges and the man pointing at one another and smiling – and supposedly that was the problem … that was the story.

See even though the “reporter” (and I use that term very loosely), Jay Kolls, said the young man was not in a gang, his report implied … no, it specifically said the two were throwing a known gang sign. Hell, the headline that can still be found on the KSTP-TV site reads – and I quote – “Mpls. Mayor Flashes Gang Sign with Convicted Felon; Law Enforcement Outraged.”

Really … I mean really? Are you freaking kidding me? Pointing at someone is a gang sign … since when?

How many times have you taken an innocent photo playfully pointing at someone? Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you’d be accused of being a gangbanger?

I’m sure the mayor of Minneapolis didn’t think that either. Neither did Navell Gordon, the young man in the photo. But the fact that Gordon had a felonious past was enough to get him labeled and a gang member. Never mind the fact that Gordon has been working hard to rehabilitate his life and the photo op came about because Gordon was out knocking on doors registering people to vote and the mayor and police chief joined in the efforts. Oh, let us not forget that the supposed news story aired on KSTP-TV failed to mention that the chief was right there too. It would have gone against its narrative of “police outraged.” Hell, here’s the city’s top cop right there. She didn’t seem too outraged.

Here’s the real outrage. It’s outrageous that an ABC news affiliate would air such a one-sided hatchet job against the mayor and try to race bait in the process using the narrative of the scary Black man. It’s outrageous that KSTP-TV would basically invent a news story for what agenda I still can’t grasp. Certainly the station and Kolls aren’t in some sort of cahoots with the police federation (which is highly upset with the mayor for wanting to root out bad cops and pushed for officers to wear body cameras), right? And is the station so tone deaf to think this piece of trash would fly following the airing of the station’s most popular show, “Scandal,” which plays to a very large African-American audience?

By the way, Mayor Hodges has taken several photos (which have surfaced since #pointergate) where she does the same playful point with other white people, yet not until now was she accused of throwing “gang signs.”

Whereas a photo of Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol ended up on CNN with the question of if he was throwing a gang sign because he posed using a hand sign associated with his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, this is far worse. With Johnson, an African-American who is charged with the police efforts in the aftermath of the Michael Brown murder in Ferguson, Mo., the confusion came from a sad lack of knowledge and understanding of African-American culture. With Hodges and Gordon, Kolls’ story was pure fabrication … a deliberate attempt to discredit the mayor and further demonize the Black male.

Kolls and KSTP-TV should be ashamed.

Certainly the issue can’t be Gordon’s past run-ins with the law. That shouldn’t be held against him if he’s showing earnest efforts to turn his life and his community around. No one’s past should be held against him or her. If so, we’d be focusing on Kolls past 2007 run in with law enforcement.

Bottom line, KSTP-TV owes the mayor an apology, it owes Gordon an apology, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) – the organization that Gordon was out canvassing for – is owed an apology and the people of Minnesota are owed an apology … and a retraction. And for goodness sake, at least change the headline that lives online, which continues to tell an all out lie that has been proven to be pure garbage.

Come on KSTP-TV, you’re better than that … aren’t you?

November 17, 2014
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