Like most Americans who are watching the fall of our imperfect society from the comfort, convenience and relative safety of their living rooms, I spent most of the weekend glued to live TV news and social media coverage of this weekend’s relatively-peaceful protests and demonstrations, and the “Anarchy Meets Police State” live theatre that followed. It’s been a surreal thing to watch unfold.
Locally, here in Oklahoma City, the media coverage has been a mixed bag. I think they were caught a bit caught off guard by the escalation of the events at 23rd and Classen on Saturday night, but by the end of the evening did a decent job covering the bursts of chaos at police headquarters.
On Sunday, the media regrouped in full force and provided comprehensive coverage of the protests that started on N. Kelly and winded down to the Capitol. Then, as the gathering moved downtown towards the jail, we all got to watch Channel 9 pilot Jim Gardner go full Fox News on the demonstrators, and work with police to profile people that he thought looked “suspicious:”
Yep, how dare they wear a helmet and shin guards as they march to protest police brutality directly to the police who, as we’ve learned over the years, don’t seem to have any major qualms about firing rubber bullets, flashbangs, tear gas canisters and even automobiles into protesters. Hell, they even murder people in broad daylight, which is what I think caused these protests in the first place.
The fact that Jim was making biased assumptions and working with police to help identify people he deemed suspicious shouldn’t be a shocker. He does the same thing while covering severe weather and police chases. Plus, he is flying Bob Mills Sky News 9. If you remember correctly, Bob Mills was a co-chair of Trump’s campaign. We should feel lucky that Jim didn’t call all the protesters thugs and start squirting pepper spray on them from above.
Jim’s commentary set off the liberal OKC Twitter echo chamber. Here are some comments:
So Jim Gardner just confirmed he’s a eye in the sky for the police when they need it. That’s journalistically problematic.
— Mike Koehler (@mkokc) May 31, 2020
Hey @NEWS9 You have multiple anchors & Jim Gardner who are using dogwhistle language, making assumptions that protestors are “out for trouble”, & using language meant to escalate the tension. This is racist & dangerous and inexcusable, please stop them from doing this again.
— Meg McElhaney (@igobymeg) May 31, 2020
The cops should be commended for their behavior for being in such a dangerous situation, says News 9’s Jim Gardner, totally oblivious to the fact people are protesting because of the dangerous conditions black people have been in for the entirety of their lives.
— Andrew Gilman (@AndrewGilmanOK) May 31, 2020
— Jabee (@mynameisJabee) June 1, 2020
Yeah, Jim should have known better. This is different from working with the cops when you’re tracking a tornado that’s headed towards Burns Flat. Although I’m sure the cops are your buddies and you always wanted to be one when you were a kid, you have to remain objective when covering breaking news events like this. You can’t turn into Michael Savage or Rush Limbaugh and advance a false narrative or propaganda. Plus, you don’t want to accidentally out an undercover cop.
Apparently, Jim wasn’t the only person in News 9 worried about “violent” protestors. Check out this Facebook test from News 9 storm chaser Alan Broerse:
— thelostogle (@TheLostOgle) June 1, 2020
Geeze, and you thought storm chasers were good at overhyping and pushing a fear-based narrative on severe weather! Expect News 9 to deploy David Payne and their full stable of weatherpeople and stormchasers to cover the next protest:
“Okay, let’s go to Val and Amy near Hudson.”
“Hey David, we have an outflow of looters circulating at the roundabout on 10th and Walker. It’s really picking up and … David! David! If you can pick up my footage, I think you can see a small lowering of protestors going towards Waffle Champion!”
Later on in the night, a sleepy Kelly Ogle mumbled that OKCPD, which seemed to instigate most of the actual violence on Saturday and Sunday night, had intel that there were troublemakers out in the crowd who were not policemen:
Kelly Ogle is now claiming police had "intel" that some people tonight were going to come in and instigate trouble. Were they talking about themselves?
— thelostogle (@TheLostOgle) June 1, 2020
Wow. That’s some top-notch intelligence. You’re telling me the suspicious angry white dudes in the crowd who look like they were conceived at Woodstock 99 are only there to cause trouble? Get out of town! What’s next? Police and local TV news having an all-too-cozy relationship that creates a pro-law enforcement bias in local media coverage?
Although Jim, along with a Kelly Ogle, provided some cringe-worthy commentary, News 9’s reporting team did a good job staying on the frontlines of the interaction between our fully-armed and ready authoritarian police units and protestors. Aaron “Beefcake” Brilbek flexed his guns at the front lines, interviewing people who seemed to give rehearsed speeches like they were crisis actors, while Storme Jones earned merit badge after merit badge dodging tear gas and flash bangs, and criticizing OKCPD for reckless driving. They should expect a lecture from Jim Gardner, the police and News 9 management very soon.