City Paper is not for tourists
There’ll be a lot of attention paid this week to how well the administration of Adrian M. Fenty cleans up the snowstorm. Will it get to the rezzy streets soon enough? Will it send all those Bobcats into the alleys to help people get out of their garages? Will it come up with a bunch of lame excuses?
If the Fenty people find themselves in a bind, I suggest what I’ve come to call the John Fanning approach. For those of you who aren’t deep into Ward 2 political history, John Fanning is a good old activist who was walking these streets during city’s roughest years. In the mid-’90s, he found work as a Ward 2 constituent services outreach guy for Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr.
And that’s just where he was when the great storm of early January 1996 crippled the city. We got walloped with a series of storm systems that just sat down and had lunch above the D.C. metro area. Result? 15-25 inches of accumulation.
Everything shut down, including, it seemed, the city’s own snow-removal apparatus. Barry took quite a bit of heat for the response, which became a sore point among community activists.
After the worst had melted, Fanning attended a meeting of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, just to update the community on all kinds of business. To people who complained about the snow removal, Fanning replied, Hey, where were you going to go? Everything was shut down!
It was a good line, straight out of the crisis-management PR booklet.
And hey, the city this week may well need some snowstorm-related PR abilities, given the amazing incident with a D.C. cop at the intersection of 14th and U Streets NW on Saturday. Check out a complete rundown of the incident here on City Desk, with tons of extra information among the hundreds and hundreds of comments (a WCP record?). What happened is this: A bunch of young urbanites were having a collegial snowball fight. A Hummer passed through the intersection, and out jumped a guy who pulled a gun after his SUV apparently got hit by a snowball. He turned out to be a cop, one “Detective Baylor.”
A big scene ensued, one captured on some widely circulated video. Snowballers engaged in a nasty exchange with the self-identified Baylor and chants went up: “You don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight.”
The cops later put out a press release about Det. Baylor‘s gun-waving activity.
Blogger bsom has a pretty good rundown of how the Post (mis)handled coverage of the Det. Baylor incident. The knock on the Post here is that the paper failed to get on the story early and that it didn’t publish the truth about Baylor pulling a gun. Here’s bsom:
“The story notes that a Post editorial aide, Stephen Lowman, was there at the scene, and saw the plainclothes officer hold the gun.
And that’s troubling. Someone from the Post was there (whether on assignment or there for fun, who knows), and yet they still put up a story hours later buying the police claims that their own employee saw were not true? And they didn’t update the story until 10:20 last night, and even then wouldn’t outright say he had held his gun.”
City Desk will remain all over this incident in the days to come.