Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Can TV News Somehow Resurrect Itself From The Depths of Hell?

Phoenix AZ—As a former Chicago cop and licensed private investigator I suddenly found myself drafted into TV news.  I had no formal journalism education and doing TV news never entered my mind.  

It was late in 1989, I met a young investigative TV producer, Jim LaMay and his sidekick reporter, William LaJeunesse.  Those two saw me in action in the Phoenix, AZ courts and begin to follow me around.  They were both visionaries that wanted to know every way to gather newsworthy information in order to beat the competition.  

I handed them an interesting story of a young black man recently railroaded into a second degree murder conviction for killing a white man who was also the son of a local judge.  

It turned out the Public Defender was over confident that the case would be won simply with a legitimate self-defense claim.  Virtually no investigation or efforts to expose the horrific criminal history of the dead man, including his senseless, racial violence against blacks was done by the defense.  

After the conviction a local newspaper reporter,  the late, JW (Joan) Brown asked me to look into the case and help the lad who was facing a minimum 20-year prison term with no chance of parole.  I looked at the incredibly thin court file and was shocked to see an absence of any meaningful defense motions. However that Guilty verdict stood out to me like a flashing neon sign. 

I examined the backgrounds of both the winner and loser of this violent conflict.  The black kid lacked a criminal record but the judge’s son was a documented steroid using dangerous thug, Robbie Lockwood was out on three separate felony probation terms.  The dead miscreant avoided any prison terms simply because of his father’s influential interference.  

What had happened was that Lockwood and three others were out driving around at midnight while Barlow was riding his bicycle home from his job.  They ran him off the road in the darkness then three of the four surrounded Barlow threatening him. Barlow produced a lawfully carried gun ordering them to back off.  Lockwood had a wine bottle in his hand swinging it at Barlow’s head shouting, “Whacha gonna do, shoot me nigger?” Those were Lockwood’s last words. 

After visiting this fellow in jail, I formally took on the case of Ronnie Lewis Barlow.  I did my job and took the facts of this case to a gun rights group that actually picketed the courthouse for a new trial at high noon during 110 degree heat.  As a result of the publicity the lad wound up with a really big gun, private, pro-bono lawyer Booker Evans.  It took a while, but sweet success prevailed on our part.  Barlow got his life back. 

The two newsmen wanted me in their CBS affiliated newsroom, that today is, FOX 10.  They brought me in to meet the news director, Dave Howell.  They offered me a very well paying job however I could not shut down my detective agency. That would have made three promising law students unemployed.  I agreed instead to work on a per story basis.  That led to quite a career move.  I learned journalism from the best reporters and producers and as a team nobody could touch us in the ratings.  For years the Emmys flowed like water!

They later wanted me to be a reporter but doing the necessary digging for information made it impossible to both produce and report, nobody could dig better than yours truly. 

Later, I went on to work with all the major network news shows on the biggest stories, such as, The Waco Branch Dividians, Oklahoma Bombing and the UNABOMB, Ted Kaczynski case.  

By default I was the expert on crime, courts and corruption. 

Later TV news began a serious decline in quality, competitiveness and funding.  They slowly went from actually doing news reporting, to political election influencing.  That and internet competition ended the glory days of enterprising reporting. 

TV news can survive but only if they relearn that old motto, “If it bleeds, it leads.” People want crime, courts and corruption stories, not that political crap that is pushed on them everyday.  The term, Fake News would die if they began doing real news once again.  Ratings could return if news outlets would simply reduce the divisive political garbage.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yup. My favorite was the monk shootings on the West side. Bravo for saving those kids from Tucson.