Oscar Grant Shooting Shows Us: The media voices in Oakland are missing in action
Oakland is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the country, but its media outlets–newspaper and blogs alike–are woefully lacking. I spent part of 2008 thinking about starting a community news site for Oakland because there was so little out there, and then moved on to other things. Now, watching how poorly the local news/citizen journalism/media community is covering the Oscar Grant shooting, I see how lacking local voices are when it comes to the news (and believe me, I have been looking, hard).
Yo, here’s the dealio on what the local media is and is not covering:
Oakland Tribune, Inside Bay area, the local Oakland newspaper owned by the Media News Group, the 4th largest US newspaper conglomerate, filed 12 stories about Grant‘s shooting, and picked up coverage from other sources as well. Lacking however, are the on the street and citizen media stories that would round out what looks like “crime beat” reporting.
The East Bay Express, the local alt paper, has filed at least six stories on the Oscar Grant shooting and the subsequent protests as the story has evolved. Coverage is pretty pro-forma, but this paper offers the most consistent local voice.
Farmer Joe’s & Friends, the blog for the local Fruitvale grocery where Grant worked as a butcher’s assistant has a nice post remembering him. “Oscar, I will miss your smiling face behind that meat counter at Joe’s. No words can express my sense of loss and outrage at what has happened.”
The Oakbook, the Oakland web site whose founder Alex Gronke recently got funding as an individual from participants in Spot.Us, a Knight News Challenge community journalism project run by David Cohn, has one (!) story on the topic, focusing on the “vandals” who destroyed property on 17th street when protests got out of hand on January 7th. Given this is supposed to be the biggest (and best?) local Oaktown web site, the lack of more coverage is surprising.
Future Oakland says it covers decisions and controversies that shape the future. Clearly, it doesn’t think the Oscar Grant story is relevant; their one post acts annoyed at the outcry and implies that rioting negates murder: “Just as vandalizing Creative African Braids and the charming shops along 17th Street is not justice, holding Oakland responsible for the actions of a regional body that happens to be headquartered in a Lake Merritt high-rise is unfair.” Big whoop.
A better Oakland: This site about Oakland has no original posts about the Oscar Grant incident, but it does have links to San Francisco coverage. It invites readers to comment on events and provides links to Bay area coverage, including Oakland resident Thomas Hawk’s on-scene photos, and to a forum.
And then there are the blogs that are supposedly about Oakland, but exist in parallel universes where Oscar Grant’s death is never mentioned, not at all:
No coverage at all:
- O scene, the Oakland blog for people living out loud
- The DTO, downtown Oakland
- East Bay Outtakes, Notes from Berkeley, Oakland and in-between
- Fruitvale, Oakland, CA, Life in Oakland’s Fruitvale district/
Note: I made some edits to this post as of Jan. 15th, and would like to note that some of the blogs I highlighted as lacking coverage posted coverage after this post went live. And, in fact, there was additional, very heartfelt coverage, later in the week. It’s also worth noting that the video and photography coverage on flickr and youtube was fulsome and fantastic, with lots of commentary on some photos.
Also, its worth noting that loyal fans of the current Oaktown media scene gave coverage by the blogs they favor an A, thought it was terrific. Since it is important to listen to different perspectives and treat them with respect, it is important to me to note that.
Finally, I removed the grades from individual publishing sources; they were quite wounding to people, and since so many blogs are labors of love and heroic effort, they struck the wrong note. My intent was not to pass judgement on any specific blog, and I regret giving that impression to anyone, but to share my view that coverage of Oakland events by Oakland community members and Oakland news outlets could be richer, better, stronger and more diverse than it is today. While I have learned from the discussion and posts, I hope the outpouring of documentation, writing and opinion around Oscar Grant’s shooting keeps more people online, engaged and communicating where we can read them.