National Conference on Media Reform
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I am bored stiff as I fly via Northwest Airlines to Memphis for the National Conference on Media Reform hosted by Free Press.
As I waited with my partner, Sam, to board my flight at the McGee-Tyson Airport, three young adults sat immediately behind us, engaged in a rather loud conversation. Even I with my severe hearing impairment could understand enough of what was said to gather that the young woman doing most of the talking was affiliated in some way with the Knoxville Police Department (KPD.) She began describing the recent prostitution stings that KPD conducted along Magnolia Avenue in East Knoxville, a street well known for such activity.
Her diatribe consisted of a blatantly slanted account of the stings lauding the poor police officers who were sent to this area to do the work they were paid by the taxpayers to do. Her unspoken complaint was imbedded in her description of the “little old ladies” who repeatedly requested that their neighborhood be cleared of these people with careful note that there was really noting law enforcement could do about it. In addition to attesting to the futility of these stings, her sympathy for the police officers who had to the this work oozed like honey from every word she uttered.
I could no longer resist. I reached for a business card and turned around, offering it to her as I introduced myself. I pointed out that I was familiar with the stings in question and highlighted the fact that the names of the men having sex with men who were arrested in Tyson Park were named on the air by WVLT-TV in Knoxville.
She immediately retorted that that was the fault of “the media.” I returned fire stating that the only “media” doing this was the most conservative station in the area. You know, the one that included a segment by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame in each evening news broadcast.
I turned around and stewed in my juices until I remembered that the Chief Information Officer for KPD, Darrell Debusk, was a recent guest on the Halerin Hilton Hill morning radio talk show on WNOX Newstalk 100, local Reich Wing radio station. During his appearance, he read the names of the 15 men previously arrested at Tyson Park, He did not ready any names associated with the Magnolia Avenue stings.
She stared at me, apparently speechless, as I leveled the whole spiel of information at her that I had gathered during my background research for an Equality Herald article, also carried on Out and About Newspaper’s Web site.
She remained speechless, staring. Her companions turned around to see this woman, middle-aged grandmother, who knew statistics about men who have anonymous sex in public places. You see, I could not resist letting them know that these men are mostly married and heterosexual.
After a frustrating beginning during which I practically had to wring a neck or two to get someone to show me where the elevators were, I finally got registered and got cleared for press credentials.
After an exhausting day, I was hungry and found that Memphis has a trolley system that, for $1/ride, will “carry you” to Beale Street and other destinations. As I stood awaiting the trolley, I found a lovely trio consisting of two young women from New York City, one an academic and one a broadcast journalism activist, along with their friend, a man from Seattle. We rode the trolley and met up with their friends at the famous Rendezvous Ribs. Our waiter was the very chap pictured on their Web site. His playful gruff manner made it even more fun.
The friends that had joined us were all from Canada. We had wonderful conversation about everything from kids to Dubya to the Alcan Highway. They were all sweet, interesting people who were patient with the deaf old lady from Knoxville.