How A Handful Of “New” Black Panthers Can Suddenly Become “News” On Local Television

In American society our television options continue to balloon and expand faster than the known universe. The overabundance of cable news options has warped our standard 30 minute newscast into 72 hours a day of news. While there is scarcely enough national news for one 24 hour news channel nationally, this news-sprawl has slowly devolved to local news coverage. With the loss of viewership from national broadcast networks, local affiliates depend more and more on their local news broadcasts. Both morning and evening local news broadcasts have lengthened exponentially and this has diluted what passes for news to the point of absurdity.

Watching First Coast “News” last night you could see how absurd this has become. Jacksonville is faced with profound challenges that are sufficient to trouble any citizen. Budget cuts, unemployment, failing schools, and routine gun violence could fill any 30 minute newscast with the heavy and relevant issues facing everyone in Duval each day. Yet last night First Coast “News” led their 11:00 PM newscast with an awkward attempt to frighten you about a non-existent threat. With the racially charged issue of the Trayvon Martin killing dominating statewide and national news, and rallies across the state being held every day, First Coast “News” decided to lead with the New Black Panther Party threat. And by threat I mean 6 or so guys that have been showing up at local events looking for publicity for months. Watching local news for the past year I have seen this small group show up at the scenes of shootings and such on the Northside looking to make it on camera for even the briefest of moments.

Our local New Black Panthers made headlines by offering a $10,000 bounty for anyone who makes a citizens arrest of Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman. Now no matter your feeling on the Trayvon Martin issue, vigilantism is not the answer to George Zimmerman’s own vigilantism. But when the group held a small meeting that only 20 of our 1.3 million citizens showed up to, First Coast “News” was there. Not only were they there, they led their entire newscast with this non-news story. This same group that claims they are offering a $10,000 bounty, canvassed the group for gas money afterward. Yet First Coast “News” gave this gathering, smaller than most HOA meetings, center stage. To FCN’s credit they do point out that the actual Black Panthers have denounced the group of posers that FCN fell willingly for.

In the end it’s not entirely clear if this was just the case of poor journalism, a lack of new ideas, or simply a slow news day. After spending a week engaged in the orgy of Tim Tebow speculation that engulfed all local media, and no more Donna Deegan marathons to cover endlessly, I can only assume that the well of relevant news stories is frighteningly dry. To give FCN full credit, they have received high marks from me in the past for dedicating entire newscasts on location to deal with gun violence. I can only hope that last night was an exception to the rule.

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