Tis the season for year-end reviews! Everyone complains about them, but that doesn't stop them from reading every word — which leads publications to keep printing those December reviews. So just own up to it, already.
My list concerns the year in Richmond media — but first, an argument for freedom of the press.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression gives out Jefferson Muzzles every April 13 to people and organizations that commit free-speech violations. I nominate the Richmond police, who arrested RVA magazine photographer and co-founder Ian M. Graham when he was attempting to take pictures at the Oct. 31 breakup of the Occupy Richmond protest.
His editor sent him there after midnight, when word of a late-night police raid started to spread. Graham says he identified himself as a member of the media "as loudly as possible," and he was carrying a large, professional camera (not that it should matter). Officers hastily established a "media zone" on a street corner — one with a poor view of the activity in Kanawha Plaza. Graham started to cross the street to get a better view, and he was arrested on a trespassing charge and handcuffed, an image captured by WTVR-CBS 6.
I asked Graham, who also shoots weddings and advertisements, whether Channel 6's representatives were treated differently than he was; he said yes, because they stayed inside the press section.
I've been at crime scenes where police ask reporters to stay behind the yellow tape, and there is some reason for that if they are trying to protect evidence. But Graham was not trying to enter the park or disrupt police activity — he was trying to take pictures in a public space.
He says he isn't even ideologically aligned with the Occupy protesters, although he notes that he "like[s] the general idea of civil disobedience" and feels some solidarity with his fellow arrestees. The Virginia ACLU has taken his case, and they planned to file for a continuance at a Nov. 18 court hearing. In the meantime, Graham is continuing with his assignment of covering protests, including the occupation of Monroe Park.
Noncommercial radio stations WRIR and WCVE went head-to-head in late September with dueling pledge drives, and it worked out … fine. The public radio station hit its $300,000 goal, and the indie low-power station (where I volunteer and pledge) surpassed its goal of $35,000, which was already a pledge-drive record. Of course, WRIR had to up its fundraising because it no longer receives the emergency broadcasting federal grant — which landed in the lap of WCVE in October.
Amanda Meadows, Channel 6's traffic reporter, is so fast on the uptake that the local police sometimes retweet her traffic reports from @GridlockGoddess. I wish I had that kind of power.
Change of the Guard
Danny Finnegan took over in July as editor of the Times-Dispatch after 24 years at the paper. Finnegan's promotion brought a bit of relief to the newsroom staff, which has been depleted through layoffs and restructuring the past few years. It helps (mentally, at least) to have someone who's been in the trenches now making some of the hard decisions. Also, WWBT-NBC 12 bid farewell to Gene Cox, who left his anchor chair after 33 years in June. See you around, Gene!