It’s Gotten Hard Out There for a Reporter and Oprah IS Starting to Slide

Are things getting tougher for news reporters trying to cover violent crime in general and gang related violent crime in  particular in Memphis?  Apparently that is the case in some cities according to a report featured on Shoptalk that cites, in part, increased gang activity and a growing emphasis on a grass roots campaign called “Stop Snitching“.   A code of silence isn’t anything new.  Organized crime has had in it place for years going back to Italian gangs and I would imagine to some degree the Irish gangs that set up shop in the U-S.  But the article in Broadcasting and Cable would indicate that some reporters in middle America are starting to parrot that ever popular sound bite they use periodically on the news” That’s something you expect to see in the big city, but not out here in my home town“.  If that code of silence has indeed been established in Memphis it’s not being helped by the fact that reporting staffs really don’t have much in the way of “beats” anymore so any “connections” or “sources” would be fewer and farther” between.  Even the local newspaper of record doesn’t have much in the way of “beat” reporters and have morphed into what TV reporters have done for years which is be forced to become an “expert” on the story de jour.  I would be curious if any reporters working the street in Memphis have encountered the so-called “code of silence” or if indeed it is something that hasn’t arrived in Memphis.

Along that line of thought, I know when I was on the streets as a general assignment reporter in Memphis, I found it was not unusual to receive a call from the parents or relatives of a person who was the victim of a violent crime (almost always a murder) asking if we would do a story about the crime.  Almost every time that person calling would be a person of color.  I don’t think I ever took a call from a white person making the same request.  I guess the callers just wanted others to feel their pain and perhaps it was an effort to stop the madness.  And before someone immediately labels me as a racist for making that statement, I think you will find that newsrooms across the city received the same calls and that reporters will tell you they had the same experiences on the street.   Invariably when I was sent to the house of white person asking for comment and of course a photograph  of the victim, I was usually asked to leave.  If I had to make the same call to the house of a black person, I was treated much better and usually asked into the house.    My brother-in-law who practices medicine in Memphis first set up his practice in an urban area.  He shared with  me that he was told more than once by patients that his office was considered off-limits to crime because his was the only medical facility in the neighborhood and that if he wasn’t there then the grandmothers and grand fathers he treated would have to travel even further.  His facility stayed untouched for years because of that special “code” so I have no doubt that a “code of silence” could exist and prevail.

Moving on to Oprah, it appears the Queen of Daytime TV is starting to slide in her numbers.  But then isn’t everybody on TV.  A few weeks ago on this blog I had posted that WMC was apparently considering an early newscast that might fill the time slot Oprah currently reigns over.  I think it was The GM who indicated that Oprah ain’t what she used to be and that she had managed to step on more than a few toes over the years.  Plus, she’s starting a new network.  Well, her timing is good.  According to an article in the New York Times, Oprah is still Queen but her numbers are dropping even with the giveaways. And hey, if you can’t boost viewership numbers with giveaways, what’s this world coming to? But Oprah isn’t going anytime soon.  She still has contracts with some local stations through 2010 and I think all those involved will still be pushing the wheelbarrow to the bank.

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4 Comments on “It’s Gotten Hard Out There for a Reporter and Oprah IS Starting to Slide”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Oprah may just handing out cash. She’s got enough to spare. I’d tell you more, but I ain’t no snitch.

  2. Doug J. Says:

    “…may just START handing out cash.”

    Kids, always read your posts over before clicking “submit.”

  3. JD Says:

    Hi Joe, IN RE: Code of silence:

    I can tell you first hand that the local Dentist, Doctor, and Pharmacies bordered by Third, McLemore, Mississippi and Crump Blvd., were never touched by crime in any fashion. Same went for the long established Liquor Stores. Liquor stores were the early check cashing places with no hassles. No ID’s and you could pick up a half pint at the same time before you went home.
    I remember getting a call regarding a man being beaten half to death beside the Doctor’s office, and Pera’s Liquors, at Third and McLemore. We followed up on it at the old John Gaston Hospital, where the guy “resided” for 6 days.

    Turns out he was a drug addict who decided he wanted to “jump” the Doc for some narcotics. The local “rogue citizenry” learned of the plan and waited. The fellow turned up to hide and was promptly handed his butt in his hat. No arrests were ever made. The nefarious gent left town headed to unknown parts. Doc never knew about it.

    (Mrs. Lazar used to walk her toy poodle “Pretty Boy” at Mississipi and McLemore in the dead of night before closing. She also, would never be bothered by crooks, etc. Some things such as attacking this little caucasian woman walking this silly little dog were just unimagined and never done. The neighborhood had a million eyes and justice was not always handed out at 201 Poplar.)

  4. Paul Says:


    Any reporter or photographer who’s worked in an urban area such as Memphis can echo your observations about how media are treated differently in different areas of the city. I’ve often told friends how I was MUCH more anxious working in back road areas of rural Desoto or Tipton County during the day than in the middle of Lemoyne Gardens or Dixie Homes at midnight. Most didn’t get it.

    Other than having to watch out for a few mental cases and a strung out crackhead or two out there, the media (at least in past years when I was on the streets) seemed to be given a “pass” even when in the rougher urban neighboorhoods. Some good ‘ole boys in the country could be a lot sneakier, and in some places, they ‘had the law’ on their side.

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