The shocking and disturbing video showing the fatal police shooting of a black Chicago teenager was released Tuesday only after lawsuits by journalists and news organizations — a yearlong delay that has prompted criticism of the city's black leadership, others in the media, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"The mayor of Chicago talked a lot about accountability just before he released the police video showing Laquan McDonald gunned down by a cop," (accessible via search engine) columnist John Kass wrote in the Chicago Tribune Wednesday.
"But what of the mayor's accountability? He sat on the video for months. If voters had seen it, he wouldn't have been re-elected. So it all worked out for him.
"And where is the accountability of African-American politicos and others like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, so loud now, pointing their fingers and organizing meetings and demanding accountability from others?
"When it mattered, they were silent. They didn't demand that the video be released. Why? . . ."
Curiously, a freelance journalist who pushed for the release of the video was barred from the center of the action on Tuesday.
Ashley Southall reported for the New York Times, "Dozens of journalists were gathered inside Chicago's Police Headquarters on Tuesday, listening to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy discuss the shooting of the teenager, Laquan McDonald, 17. Absent was Brandon Smith, the freelance journalist whose lawsuit over the summer had pressed for the release of the police dashboard camera video.
"In a telephone interview, Mr. Smith said that he had rushed to the news conference after hearing about it from friends, but that police officers guarding the door had blocked him from entering. He said they had told him the room was too full to allow members of the news media without credentials. Mr. Smith does not have them, he said, because he does not usually attend credentialed events.
"Mr. Smith said he did not know if officials had deliberately kept him out or if it had been an oversight. But he said he should have been invited because of his role in the video's release.
" 'This wouldn’t be happening if not for my lawsuit,' he said. . . ."
Jason Meisner reported Thursday for the Tribune, "The Illinois Attorney General's Office ruled on Nov. 6 that the Chicago Police Department violated the state's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release the video.
"The opinion stemmed from an open records request for the video first filed in May by Wall Street Journal reporter Zusha Elinson. The Chicago Police Department denied the request citing the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation and concern over a fair trial if charges result.
"Beginning in March, the Tribune also filed a series of FOIA requests for the video to the police department, the city's law department and the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates shootings that involve police officers. FOIA requests to all three agencies were denied. . . ."
The video shows Officer Jason Van Dyke unloading his gun 16 times in 15 seconds as McDonald walked away from the officers during an altercation. Van Dyke has now been ordered held without bond on a first-degree murder charge.
"Absolute horror," columnist Mary Mitchell wrote Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times.
"You can't look at the video of a Chicago police officer's shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and hold onto any illusion that black people are exaggerating police brutality. . . ."
"The video takes your breath away," (accessible via search engine) the Chicago Tribune editorialized Wednesday under the headline, "A Staggering Moment for Chicago."
"It shows a figure, identified by prosecutors as 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, felled by gunfire as he walks away from a line of Chicago police cruisers along Pulaski Road.
"McDonald writhes on the ground as a police officer continues to shoot. At one point, another officer steps close enough to kick what prosecutors say is a knife out of McDonald's hand.
"It doesn't square with the story a police union spokesman told at the scene Oct. 20, 2014, the night McDonald died after being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. . . ."
The National Bar Association Wednesday called for the resignations of McCarthy, the police superintendent, and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
"It is unacceptable that it took over a year to file these charges against Officer Van Dyke. Not only did it take a year to file these charges, but Van Dyke was able to continue in the capacity of a police officer during this delayed investigation.
"The video that [State's] Attorney Alvarez relied on to finally bring forth charges has been available since day one. Why did it take so long? I believe that had there not been a court order to release the video, Officer Van Dyke would not have been charged," NBA President Benjamin L. Crump said in a news release.
At the Poynter Institute, James Warren, a former Chicago Tribune editor, gave credit Wednesday to an additional freelance writer.
"MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell was worth catching if only because he beckoned thoughtful freelance writer Jamie Kalven, the son of a late and legendary University of Chicago law professor, who has been way out ahead on the whole story for months," Warren wrote. "Amid the anguished and angry pontificating, there are facts."
Kalven founded the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism outlet that recently released tens of thousands of pages of civilian complaints filed against the Chicago Police Department and uncovered McDonald's autopsy report.
"The media tended to miss this: It took an unidentified whistleblower to tell Kalven long ago that the video blew to smithereens the initial B.S. defense of the cop by both the police department and police union," Warren continued. "That also served to underscore the slow-walking of the saga by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who Tuesday offered a theatrically suitable mix of concern, outrage and an urging for locally therapeutic nonviolence.
"TV reporter-anchor Carol Marin reiterated, too, how it was not until five days after Emanuel's own runoff re-election win in April that he asked the City Council to approve a $5 million payment to the teen's family without even a lawsuit having been filed. (Chicago Sun-Times) As columnist Eric Zorn had already noted, the 400 days before an indictment were an outrage. (The Chicago Tribune) (accessible via search engine) They're further cause not to trust government.
"But the media also by and large missed the godawful underlying circumstances of the victim's life embedded in the video it distributed with righteous indignation and Pavlovian monotony. What else is new?"
Kass, writing in the Tribune, attributed the delay in releasing the video to politics.
"Rahm sat on the video, and kept sitting on it, all the way through his re-election, as black ministers and other African-American political figures rallied to his side to get out the black vote and deny that vote to Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia.
"If the video had come out during the election campaign, Rahm Emanuel would not be mayor today.
"Rahm didn't demand that the video be shown, and neither did the Chicago City Council's Black Caucus. They voted for the $5 million settlement.
"But if they'd demanded that the video be shown — before the election — Rahm would have cut them off at their knees.
"I didn't hear Kim Foxx — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's candidate for state's attorney — demand that the video be made public either.
"I didn't hear Preckwinkle and Foxx hold a news conference, with all their supporters around them back when the case was settled in April, speaking in loud, angry tones about accountability and City Hall and that video.
"And I didn't hear Jackson — now trying to use this police shooting to re-legitimize himself and help Foxx — demand that the video be released.
"Or other black leaders, who like most of the rest are covering their behinds, pointing fingers at others, lest the people of Chicago be reminded that many of them had Rahm's back, or at least never made a peep out loud about that video.
"The art of politics in Chicago is demanding accountability for others, but never for yourself."
Zorn pointed to more work to be done.
"Why, for instance, have we still heard so little about action against the officers involved in the deletion of 86 minutes of video from security cameras at a Burger King restaurant near the scene of the shooting?
"The deleted files cover the time from 37 minutes before McDonald was killed to 49 minutes after he was killed. Burger King officials say a group of officers came into the restaurant after the shooting and were given access to the surveillance equipment. It wasn't until the next day that the restaurant discovered that the video was missing.
"Will it take another 400 days until we find answers to that question?"
Tenisha Taylor Bell, NBCBLK: Essay: Why I Refuse to Raise My Son in Chicago
Craig Futterman, University of Chicago Law School, and Jamie Kalven, Invisible Institute: Laquan McDonald (Dec. 8, 2014)
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, NBCBLK: We Can't Turn Away From the LaQuan McDonald Video and Here's Why
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman with Barbara Ransby and Martinez Sutton: "Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio: Chicago Police Officer Charged With Murder After Video Shows Him Shooting Laquan McDonald 16 Times
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman with Charlene Carruthers and Jamie Kalven, "Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio: Chicago Activist: City's Call for Peace over Laquan McDonald Video Does Not Extend to Police Dept.
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman with Jamie Kalven, "Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio: Journalist on Shooting of Laquan McDonald By Chicago Police Officer: "It Was An Horrific Execution"
Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post: Chicago police officer charged in deadly shooting has a history of misconduct complaints
Brandon Smith, the Guardian: I filed suit for the Laquan McDonald police video. Its mundanity shocked me
Jackie Spinner, Columbia Journalism Review: How Chicago newsrooms decided how to handle the Laquan McDonald video
Brian Stelter, CNNMoney.com: Newsrooms make varying calls about airing McDonald shooting video
Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune: A moment-by-moment account of what the Laquan McDonald video shows
James Warren, Poynter Institute: How the media blew reporting the Chicago cop's shooting of a teen
Elaine Woo, a Los Angeles native who has produced "artful pieces on celebrated local, national and international figures, including Norman Mailer, Julia Child and Rosa Parks" during her tenure on the obituaries beat, in the words of a brief bio, is among dozens of veteran Los Angeles Times journalists taking a buyout, Kevin Roderick reported Tuesday for LAObserved.
Also departing is longtime columnist Sandy Banks, "the paper's lone black columnist and most prominent African American journalist," Roderick wrote separately.
The LAObserved writer had reported on Friday that Henry Chu, London bureau chief and one of the first graduates of the Metpro internship rogram for journalists of color, was also leaving.
Banks "has been writing for the paper for 36 years, and had a column starting way back in the View features section," Roderick wrote. "A lot of readers have followed her life arc and the experiences of raising African American girls in Los Angeles — and as a result of the personal details and tone in her columns, readers have grown to know her and her family. . . ."
Banks wrote, according to Roderick, "For me, it's time for a new chapter. I don't know what lies ahead. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else, but I’m looking forward to getting to know another side of myself. . . ."
Woo "has written for her hometown paper since 1983. She covered public education and filled a variety of editing assignments before joining 'the dead beat,' " according to the Times bio. Before joining the Times, Woo worked from 1977 to 1983 at the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
"I can confirm that I am leaving The Times after 32 years. I plan to continue writing and am exploring various options," Woo told Journal-isms Wednesday by email.
Roderick quoted an email by Chu to colleagues. "I've probably written more than a million words for this great paper over the past 25 years; these are among the hardest," it began.
"From the day I arrived at Times Mirror Square as a wide-eyed METPRO, I've been privileged to work alongside some of the most talented, outstanding journalists in the world. I'm especially grateful to everyone on the Foreign Desk over the years, who could erase with a simple phone call and a cheerful word the isolation of being half a world away. . . ."
Chu previously was based in China, Brazil and India and recently completed a Nieman fellowship at Harvard, Roderick wrote.
"Now it's time to say goodbye," Chu continued. "But the LA Times will always be part of me…."
Roderick also wrote Tuesday, "The magnitude of the experience leaving the building is coming home to people, inside and outside the paper.
"Among the departures I have confirmed are two assistant managing editors, the main politics editors for City Hall and California, the bureau chiefs in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and London, all of the obituary writers, most of the 'backfield' editors who handle national and foreign stories, the top editors of features and Sunday Calendar, the editor in charge of Column One stories, the wine columnist, the editor in charge of editing standards, as many as a half dozen photographers, at least that many copy editors, and many more in various positions.
"Other prominent editors and writers are named on lists being circulated, but I have not confirmed their actual plans to finalize the buyout deal. They are allowed to change their mind up to the last day.
" 'This list gives painful dimension to the loss of knowledge and wisdom that Los Angeles is about to face,' says a former editor at both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, on a closed Facebook group where the names are being discussed. 'It makes you want to cry.' Says another former staffer on the same group: 'God, that list is staggering. Wow.' . . ." [Updated Nov. 26]
- Mary Melton, Los Angeles magazine: There's Way Too Much Talent Leaving the Building in the Latest Round of Buyouts at the Los Angeles Times
Princeton University should remove Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs, the New York Times editorialized on Tuesday, because of his "toxic legacy" as an "unapologetic racist whose administration rolled back the gains that African-Americans achieved just after the Civil War, purged black workers from influential jobs and transformed the government into an instrument of white supremacy."
The editorial said, "Student protesters at Princeton performed a valuable public service last week when they demanded that the administration acknowledge the toxic legacy of Woodrow Wilson, who served as university president and New Jersey governor before being elected to the White House."
Maddy Crowell, Christian Science Monitor: Should Princeton disown Woodrow Wilson?
Gordon J. Davis, New York Times: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather
Adam Howard, MSNBC: How do you solve a problem like Woodrow Wilson?
Alexandra Petri, Washington Post: Losing Woodrow Wilson
Kristen Rein and Roberta Bernstein, USA Today: Dueling Princeton student petitions argue legacy of Woodrow Wilson
Eric S. Yellin, USA Today: Remembering Woodrow Wilson's racism isn't enough