Friday, June 12, 2009

"Pig" is Dead; The Local Media Throw an Irish Wake

Madison’s first murder this year happened Tuesday night on the west side, in a troubled neighborhood off Raymond Road. 17-year-old Karamee “Pig” Collins, Jr. was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Cops have the gun used, and have arrested three teens in connection. "Pig" is daddy to a one-year-old, who lives with grandma in Chicago.

There was a media frenzy. TV camera crews rolled the minute the scanner squawked to life with the urgent calls. Neighbors say it’s all about payback for a fight months ago, and some sort of juvenile Romeo and Juliet problem is at the core.

Next morning, my pal Pat Simms was on the scene in the Meadowood neighborhood for the State Journal, toting her trusty little camcorder and reporter’s notebook. Wednesday morning talk radio was alive with the chatter.

My buddy Mitch Henck had west-side alder Thuy Pham-Remmele on his show, and she reminded his listeners she’s been harping about this problem to the cops for well over a year. A year ago, she held a neighborhood meeting about the exact same problem; now, Mayor Cieslewicz will do it again. Failed County Exec candidate Nancy Mistele called in and sang a familiar song, trying to blame it on the 9-1-1 Call Center.

That afternoon on her show, Vicki McKenna played the audio portion of the video Pat Simms made for the State Journal, talking to neighbors at the crime scene, and in her patented way, Vicki fanned the flames again. The local TV’s completed the cycle with their reports on their 4, 5, and 6 o’clock news.

My former colleague Dusty made pithy comments on his blog.

It was full media overload.

For those of us who’ve been around town a while, it was, sadly, same thing - different day. Turn the clock back 20 years. Instead of the Meadowood neighborhood, it’s Burr Oaks. It’s not Leland Drive, it’s Sommerset Circle, now called Parker Place. Shots fired, people scrambling, lives disrupted, young men shooting and shot.

Alder Tim “Boss” Bruer is doing the same thing 20 years ago that Thuy is doing now: standing on the soap-box and yelling to anyone who will listen that we’ve GOT to get control of this neighborhood; haranguing the mayor to pay attention to the south side; and holding neighborhood meetings.

And 20 years ago, the same thing that’s now going on in the Meadowood neighborhood was going on in Burr Oaks and on what used to be called Simpson Street, now “Lake Pointe Place” or some such. And you can throw in Granada Way, now called “Pheasant Ridge Trial” which links up with “Deer Valley Road”.

The city has changed the names of the streets and chased the problem into another neighborhood. But obviously, it’s still a problem. Somehow, we’ve got to get these young folks to understand that their petty problems about who’s dating who and who hit who, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Some day, maybe they’ll understand that (with apologies to Casablanca).


  1. I suspect most people would rather live in a fool's paradise, waking up each day to a brand new world, a place where "the past" seldom extends beyond yesterday, or more often just last night. That allows folks to be shocked, shocked! by murder and mayhem -- as if it is somehow anomalous. "This sort of thing just doesn't happen here!" Except that it does, and it follows themes and patterns that were already ancient when Shakespeare wrote about them.

    Is it elective amnesia, or just a modern manifestation of ADHD? Whatever it is, the phenomenon abets the media practice of bawling as if today's rain squall or snow flurry marked the advent of End Times. Never mind that the very same thing may have happened a week ago.

    The problem with old news hands like you is that you can't settle for blissful ignorance. You are stuck with the custody of history, and you're always saying "You must remember this ..."

  2. As the WSJ reported today: "The murder was not a drive-by shooting, despite the claims of one neighbor, (police spokesman) Lengfeld said. The attackers came and left the scene on foot, he said."
    And you're right. 20 years ago; same thing.
    As for "this doesn't happen here," I don't know why this would be the media's fault, if a neighbor or resident said this and is accurately quoted. Perhaps it didn't happen there, recently. There are cycles of memory and cycles of news coverage and I, too, get weary of repeating them. But the weather isn't the same as a murder among teenagers, and I don't think the media should ignore a resident's worry just because someone else might have been shot there, too, 20 years ago.

  3. The news outlets report on these things the same way they always have for the same reasons the tabloids keep selling the same old celebrity scandals, pictures of lumpy faded starlets in bikinis at the beach, weight loss miracles/weight gain non-miracles, the death struggles of ancient and beloved movie stars, etc., etc.: because we love it!! Schadenfreude sells!! Why are you surprised?

    Steve Erbach
    Neenah, WI