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Something About That Happy Face

June 9, 2015

Why did the happy face have Chinese eyes? Why would two hard-core cons draw that particular image on their breakout note?

And their message – “Have a Nice Day”– would hard-core killers really say that? Would they have written it so neatly, with letters so carefully printed and spaced?

And the paper on which their note was written – it was clean and crisp and bright. If you’re using power tools, maybe an acetylene torch to cut a hole in a steel drainage pipe, you get filthy. You can’t avoid it. But this note was pristine.

And the placement of the note – it was  positioned so carefully, so deliberately just adjacent to the opening in the drainage pipe. Was it taped there? Was it balanced there? How did that happen exactly? Think about it: They are in a rush. They are two big fellas who need to squeeze through a narrow opening in a sewer pipe, but they take the time to place their note next to the escape hole. Really?

This actually isn’t another post to question the Governor’s bizarre PR blitz in Dannemora.  Enough people are doing that now.

No, this is a note to scorch the LCA and reporters statewide who have abandoned journalistic standards.

At issue: Reporters allowed the Cuomo administration to provide pool coverage for the prison story.

We need to explain the degree to which this is an embarrassment for journalism in New York. “Pool coverage” has nothing to do with a swimming pool. It’s when competing news organizations reach an agreement with a government entity to have a single news organization cover an event on behalf of all the other news organizations. This is done when it would be impossible for all of the reporters to cover the event. For example, you simply couldn’t have a dozen or more news crews traipsing through a maximum security prison. So one news crew is selected and that crew is led by authorities through the prison. Later, that news crew shares its film and reporting notes with every other reporter.

This is a time-honored tradition in journalism – except that it’s not happening. Instead, the LCA and reporters statewide are taking “pool coverage” footage directly from the Cuomo administration.  But it’s not pool coverage at all. You can’t call it that because a real journalist isn’t walking through the prison with authorities, eying the surroundings, being inquisitive and skeptical.

It’s the Cuomo administration’s PR team doing it – or pretending to do it.  But, come on, they aren’t providing objective information. They are providing only the images they want others to see.

And who is to say that some of what they are showing isn’t staged, isn’t embellished, isn’t fabricated?

No, you can’t call this pool coverage at all.  You call it propaganda.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 9, 2015 12:32 PM

    Marc Humbert or Jay Gallagher of Dave Hepp wouldn’t have stood for this.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 9, 2015 12:47 PM

    Remember when the Health Commissioner said with such seriousness and sincerity that he’d never, ever let his children play near a fracking well? It was a great line. The only problem was that he didn’t have any children. This is going to turn out the same way. Bullshit.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    June 9, 2015 1:07 PM

    I’d wager a good amount that a woman wrote that note. Look at the swirls on the letters. No man would write like that. .

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 9, 2015 6:40 PM

    I understand what you are saying here, but I am missing the point. So what? The fact that two murders escaped a prison is not good press for the State or the Cuomo Administration. So any coverage at all is going to be bad coverage. What, are you saying, is Cuomo gaining by controlling the info coming out of the prison. I agree, the more independent journalists that cover a story the better for the public, no doubt. But I can appreciate that when you have a situation like this you can’t have that many people trapsing (sp?) through potentially contaminating the crime scene. I am not disagreeing with you here, I am just trying to see the bigger point you are trying to make. Are you implying that the whole thing was staged? Are you implying that parts of this was staged? By who and what would anyone have to gain by staging it.

    The things you point out, i.e. the crisp clean note in a place you’d expect a lot of dirt and grime, is intriguing, and something to be looked into when it comes to figuring out what happened and who was involved. But what would having one or two or five more journalists in the room do to change that right now?

    Again, I guess I am just missing the point.

    • June 10, 2015 11:51 AM

      Dear Someone:

      These are all good questions for which others have suggested answers. Michael Goodwin, for example, thinks that Cuomo is using the situation to divert attention from the crisis in Albany. Goodwin would disagree that “any coverage of the matter is going to be bad coverage.” Goodwin would say that Cuomo gets to show that he’s in charge, that he gets national exposure, etc.

      But that’s Goodwin’s point, not ours.

      Our point was two-fold. First, we wanted to say something to the reporters who cover state government. The pool coverage thing really is a breach of standards. To their credit, the reporters, a truly decent and well-intentioned group of people, are indeed re-thinking the matter.

      We had a broader point, which might strike you as a little odd. First, some background: We are students of the media and communications and history. It’s a kind of benevolent curse for us. We’re always, 24-7, thinking about it. We’ll be watching TV and we’ll see an image of Adolf Hitler. Invariably, it’s a clip of him speaking in front of crowd. He’s gesticulating wildly and has a crazed look on his face. And we’ll think to ourselves: That couldn’t have been the dominant image he projected at the time. Instead, like any politician, he would have had to project more appealing qualities. In fact, he would have had to have been really good at it to succeed. Hell, the American Nazi Party gatherings – with Hitler’s portrait hanging from the rafters – were selling out Madison Square Garden throughout the 1930s. Now, please, please, don’t get the wrong idea. We’re not Hitler admirers. Again, we’re students.

      Now to the issue at hand: The happy face. It cast the escape in a certain light, didn’t it? These guys were “brazen,” weren’t they?

      You can call any escape brazen, but you really put an exclamation point on it with a breakout note that says: “Have a nice day!”

      Maybe it’s all true. Maybe they really did that. Maybe the characterizations of the individuals involved and events are both accurate and complete.

      Or maybe not. One commentator to our post noted that the writing of the breakout note looked “feminine.” That’s interesting. That immediately tells you that a woman was involved. At the time we wrote our post, that possibility wasn’t public. It is now and it certainly changes the story from the original narrative from the governor.

      Either way, any way, as students, we’re fascinated by the way the story is unfolding. And that’s the point.


  5. mark keister permalink
    June 10, 2015 4:57 AM

    NT ~ seems you think it a strange turn of events not fully investigated by journalists! Dear man, a passport identifying a purported-terroist-cum suicide ala jet liner appears not only intact, but upon a pile of rubble garners no journalistic inquiry. Escaping from prison, perhaps given a little penache by an unknown hand, raises questions in Your Journalistic Brain?

  6. Anonymous permalink
    June 10, 2015 9:45 AM

    Where’s Jim Flateau when you need him?

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