The Right Place at the Wrong Time

Friday, October 30, 2009


The story of 16 year-old Chicago student Derrion Albert being beaten to death outside his high school became a national story after video surfaced of the beating. The video is horrifying even in today’s violence-soaked media landscape. Fox Chicago was the first outlet to acquire the footage and news director Carol Fowler explains why it was their journalistic duty to air it.

Comments [14]

Gary from Nova Scotia, Canada

A sad, sad commentary on young killers with no sense of decency or humanity. And, speaking as a former Canadian news anchor, further evidence of business needs trumping ethics in the newsroom.

America wants to assume a leadership role among nations? Yeah, right. Fix your own poverty and twisted media agenda before you preach to others...

VERY glad to be north of the 49th...

Nov. 04 2009 08:51 PM
Laura Beth

Our culture is soaked with violence. LOOK at TV! Listen to the news! We invest in it, jobs depend on it, kids see it over and over again..
Ever hear stories about social movements who oppose the military industrial complex?
On Veterans Day, ever hear from Veterans Against the War?
Ever hear investigative reporting on the roots of violence and how our nation encourages it on many levels from teaching kids to hunt, trap, fish, eat animals, bully animals?

Ever read the connection between human and animal violence or how FOOD affects behavior?
No.....We'd rather hide from the fact that as a society, from the first theft of this continent from indigenous people, westerners have wrought violence upon the land, nature, and each other...

It's ALL in the book,

We are in denial that we eat and live violently on this earth and it comes full circle, as it has for centuries.

Nothing new, just changes in appearance and technology....

The World Peace Diet, Will Tuttle

Food and Behavior-Barbara Reed Stitt, the result of "ortho-molecular" manifestation, more simply, WE ARE WHAT WE EAT!!!!

Nov. 03 2009 10:04 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven

Ms. Park, Bush did not allow the coffins to be shown on camera. I have no doubt, given the ban, that Fox was happy to comply but, had there been no ban, would have found a way to portray the dead in a way that supported the Administration, as they exonerated themselves of pandering here.

Mr. Burnett, had young Mr. Albert been a drug dealer killed in a gang turf war rather than a neighbor killed in an inexorable neighborhood turf war, the video of his murder would have had no more value than the bar shoot out from last week which I mentioned above, though it might well still have been run.

Anyone remember ABC's prime time dramady Max Headroom from the '80s, anyone?

Nov. 02 2009 09:48 AM
Josh Burnett from Oakland, CA

Bob, you hit on a journalistic pet peeve of mine in this story. In explaining the horrific nature of the attack, you described the victim as "an honors student." Why exactly is this a pertinent fact in this story? If he had a C average, would that have made the attack any more or less horrific? If he was flunking out, would that mean he deserved to be beaten to death? Of course not.

Nov. 01 2009 09:16 PM
Virginia Parks from New York, NY

During the Bush years Fox resisted showing even the coffins of those killed in war. For this reason, I find the explanation of showing the footage disingenuous.

Nov. 01 2009 08:59 PM
B K Ray from Chicago, IL

Derron lived in Roseland where the fight took place, the fact that he was an honor student is misleading to say the least, because it connotes that his being an honor student had something to do with him being hit, it didn't. There is also video of him swinging on someone before he got hit. It was his community. On the other hand, those who are being held for his murder are all from Altgeld Gardens. I got all of that from the newspapers.

So perhaps it was not what it appeared nor how the story was spun. Even if it was why didn't the school act more responsibly?

Nov. 01 2009 06:14 PM
B K Ray from Chicago, IL


I live in Chicago, and while I am glad the video did make the news and the newswaves, the story attached it was totally incorrect. Seriously and severely incorrect. If anything it underreports the totality of such incidents and misplaces blame in its reporting.

Here is the underreported aspect of it. Fights like that place are more common than the story would lead to believe. In that particular school, they knew about these fights and they did nothing to change the context of those fights.

This is a place where Google Maps would come in handy. The school, Fenger High, is located on 112the and Wallace, the bus stop most used by students from Altgeld Gardens, which is located on 130th near 90/94 about five miles away, is located one block from the school on 111th and Wallace. Because the bus stop is not on 'school grounds' the security team for the school did not offer any protection at that bus stop, not regarding that they had knowledge of the animosity between the inhabitants of the two neighborhoods involved, those being Roseland and Altgeld Gardens.

If they'd have protection at the bus stop, the students from Altgeld would have caught the bus about one mile to Michigan Ave, where they would have changed buses to the bus that would have taken them to Altgeld Gardens, but because they had no protection they felt they had to fight the distance from Wallace to Michigan, up 111th street.

In fights like this, the worse thing that can happen to you is for you to hit the ground without the consciousness to cover your head. If you do hit the ground you are going to get kicked in the head, but it is not with the intent to kill anyone. It is just to make sure that they do not get back up and into the fight.

Nov. 01 2009 06:13 PM
SeiuC from New York, NY

I find it interesting that there is a question on whether it was appropriate for the young man who filmed the crazy, violent chaos to seek payment for his work and to be critisized for opting for a cash payment rather than the check that another station was offering. He may have needed cash because he does not have a bank account. We should remember that no legitimate, formal media or public official has drawn adequate attention to the destructive situation at that school. That's why he took matters into his own hands. He just happened upon the tragic death. He should not have had to document his sister's route in this way in the first place. But had there be a news crew documenting how difficult it is to wend one's way to and from that school, they certainly would have been paid by check.

Nov. 01 2009 04:24 PM
RJ from Brooklyn, NY

I heard 2 unasked questions in the interview:
1) Ms. Fowler noted that this dead child would have known as a statistic had the video taker not been there. Whose responsibility is that? Why are dead children in Chicago known only as numbers without accidental video? (Subquestion: What *other* stories does this apply to?)

2) About the cynicism of journalists who cried at the video: Where were they trained and where did they work previously? Every day there are comparable stories to mourn--of desperation and despair--throughout this country: 1 in 5 children going to bed hungry, 7% of workers who have given up trying to find work (not counted in unemployment percentages), mentally ill people who were kicked out of public facilities and left homeless. If this is their first encounters with horrifying, despairing images, their training experiences are sorely lacking.

Nov. 01 2009 10:55 AM

FOX News buys video of a street murder from someone who decided that he could make a profit from it. In turn FOX profits while claiming to preform a public service. Profit by exploiting someone else's pain while trying to explain it away as civil and moral duty. This is vintage Rupert Murdoch journalism, blur the line between journalism and entertainment by feeding people's morbid craving for violence.
When will the next installment of such video be purchased by a "news" organization?

Nov. 01 2009 08:20 AM
Laura from Boston

I have listened to your interview with Carol Fowler and I know when someone is trying to sell me something. It made me ill to hear her say that she didn't understand why the person who took the video didn't call the police until she talked to him. Are you kidding me?? You mean to say that while he was taking the video, he said to himself "Oh, I need to film this instead of calling 911 because we'll need this for its social edification". No...after listening to her, I believe the decision to air it was based on ratings. Television, in particular, is becoming more & more melodramatic and it seems like journalism is going down this road as well ...when are we going to draw the line?? Ms. Fowler said that the video ensured the Derrion wasn't a mere statistic but I think this type of journalism just encourages violence. As I said, I believe that Fox did it for ratings and it made sick listening to her justify her decision.

Nov. 01 2009 08:13 AM
Ron Evett from Holliston, MA

I thought of the movie Shoah as the Fox lady talked away with her non-explanations of what Fox did. People can do almost anything if they get good enough at denying responsibility for what they do. That goes for Chicago teens and for Fox News. For God's sake, a kid was killed by being beaten by lumber! They didn't have to draw us a picture. People of ordinary intelligence and imagination can easily get the picture without the footage. The purpose of showing the footage could not have been to inform.

Nov. 01 2009 08:08 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven

geo8rge, take a course in television production and you will learn that the single most important element is the sound track. So, even if we don't have so much on-screen fictional violence, cop shows are soaked in descriptions and photos shown to "perps".

With the exponential growth of surveillance videos, true crime news footage often includes criminals violently assaulting victims. Just the other night, nationally many of us watched repeated clips of a wild shoot-out in a bar. Plus, yes, we now are seeing dead soldiers in print media or their corpses returning to Andrews on camera.

On the whole segment; what a great idea it was to take advantage of this story to hold a piercing and civil interview with a newsie from Fox, albeit from a local affiliate rather than from corporate headquarters! That's really sticking it to posters who couldn't imagine it happening on NPR, OTM or with Bob conducting it, in particular. For once, both parties, OTM and Fox, deserve credit where credit is due.

Nov. 01 2009 05:43 AM
geo8rge from Brooklyn NY

today’s violence-soaked media landscape

Where? Do you see pictures of dead soldiers, Iraqis or Afghanis? Persistent societal collapse in Detroit? Crime? In general I think the media has been cleaned of violent images. You are living in the 80s. Seriously count the violent images and references, bet it comes to none.

How dare you be so reductionist, say what?

Oct. 31 2009 10:16 PM

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