I have a great deal of respect for the officers with the Wilmington Police Department led by Chief Ralph Evangelous. For the most part, I feel safe in this community.
That said, Chief Evangelous, whether intended or not, put local media in a tough situation with some seemingly off the cuff comments last Friday while talking about a pending Revolutionary Black Panther Party gathering in Wilmington.
The chief said the media just shouldn't cover it. Don't give them the time of day, insinuating that our coverage would contribute to the volatility of the situation. We even heard from several of you who were upset we didn't follow the chief's request.
I would hope that you and our police chief understand that the media's responsibility is to inform the community of what is taking place here…good or bad.
We can't just ignore something like this and hope it will go away. People in this community were very anxious this past weekend. They were looking to us for answers and information they could trust.
The challenge for the news organizations was to cover this situation, but not overdramatize what was taking place. From what I saw, the media in this area performed that duty without falling victim to hyperbole.
We all have jobs to do. And I think the local journalists and law enforcement officers both did their jobs very well last weekend.
That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.
Emailed comments from viewers:
It doesn't surprise me that the City of Wilmington is going to allow this event to happen.
Mayor Saffo thinks it will be peaceful. What's peaceful about spreading more hate? and possible violence?
If the KKK was going to hold an "armed event" everyone in this Country, not Wilmington would be busting at the seems to report this news.
Mayor Saffo isn't going to do anything to keep himself from getting re-elected in the City, especially going against the grain of the
minority voters here.
Mayor Saffo along with the City of Wilmington Council, the New Hanover County Commissioners' and the Sheriff should ask the Governor to assist
the City with providing National Guard to protect the interest, property and the safety of the citizens here this weekend.
If nothing else the Sheriff should over-ride them all, and he has the power to do so and stop this. It's not a legal protest, and they all should be fined and arrested if necessary.
Participants still plan to march with their weapons Sunday, and Dr. Muhammad said they are prepared to take legal action if necessary, I'm sure they'll do more than that
given they will be armed and they are planning something illegal. That doesn't speak much for that group does it?
The Creekwood Community could easily be barricaded at the (3) three entrances with residents having to provide an ID with an address to enter or exit.
I'm sure that not all the people living in Creekwood are happy about this.
This is just shameful of the people we have elected to provide services and protection for each and every citizen here in Wilmington.
Especially when this is not a local group who pays taxes here, only a group coming in to Wilmington to spread more hate, possible violence and surely to recruit
more members targeting a low income minority neighborhood.
This is just the most irresponsible thing by our local leaders I've ever seen here.
Your little segment on how your station handled the coverage of the black panther situation was very interesting. You were so right on how we the public look to you for need and what's going on in our community. The chief was dead wrong to even suggest that any station not cover the issue. I have no respect now for that guy and he should resign!
One time I was prejudice and didn't care for Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, etc. I didn't support LGBT or Gay Marriage. September 11, 2001 made me so emotional and become a stronger American. I am 62 now and have evolved so much towards acceptance of peace while rejecting hatred. The armed Black Panther march was a juxtaposition of our 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights and attempting to suppress press coverage of a peaceful demonstration is anti-American.
Saw your commentary this morning. The media is always about ratings. To deny this is funny. To cover something prohibited in nc in the manner they were doing it makes you part of the problem. Theres no backbone anymore and all the media does is stir the pot. You gave their illegally constructed march validity and for that you help others to follow suit. I've always followed the rule to ignore and then the gesture fails to have validation. Marching is legal and their message viable but the manner completely wrong.
Thanks for your perspective on whether or not to provide publicity to the recent and unfortunate visit by armed people claiming to be "Black Panthers." We agree with the police chief that the media only gave free publicity and heightened the public's fear of a confrontation; rather, WECT should have virtually ignored their presence. We are convinced the "armed" part was their way of luring the media into making this into far more than it was. Perhaps your station could better serve the public by investigating how our local police force has been turned into a military-equipped force with the weaponry we saw revealed. There is your story.
In the same vein, the stories on today's website about people from the 7 targeted countries known for exporting terrorists that kill Americans – they seem to be aimed at drawing sympathy for enemies of this country. It begs the question about which side WECT is on.
I'm not opposed to covering news, but sometimes media presence can influence news, or what appears to be the news.
From a very young age we are taught to pose, smile or react to a camera.
I recall at age 12 being curious when I saw a photographer up close (turned out he worked for "Life Magazine") and noticed his camera had lenses coming out of two sides. I didn't notice until I got up close.Anyway...I inquired what kind of camera had two lenses in different directions. The biggest lens turned out to be fake. The real lens was at a 90 degree angle to the other (a box type camera where he looked down at it...a Roliflex?) He explained people if they saw the big lens would react to it in some way...facially, or even avoid it. The real picture he wanted was people acting natural who didn't notice the real lens was on them.
As a college student it was a bucket list item to see New Year's Eve at Times Square in NYC. I was warned about the tightly packed crowds acting like crazy "hadn't I seen it on TV?". Well, that craziness went on when the news media turned on their big floodlights and TV cameras....the crowd knew they were on TV and waved wildly, shouting, screaming, just what you saw on TV. Turn off the lights the crowd went very quiet until the lights came on again. This mayhem took place ONLY in the blocks closest to the cameras placed near the building where the ball dropped. The "crowd" where we milled around (some 10 blocks farther) had plenty of space between people, light conversation with strangers, very mellow. Nothing like what is seen on TV. Again, people up front reacting wildly to the presence of a camera.
I note when there is an event in the Wilmington area that your or any other media station attends you have large vans/trucks/cars with the station call letters boldly on the sides. No mistaking who is there and just maybe people think "wow, I might see myself on TV" and make a point to get into the picture one way or another. Maybe if your vehicles and microphones had zero advertising...would people react any different? What if they clearly had camera's and dish antennas but said "FBI" or "State Police" some just might not seek to be caught on camera.
Too bad news media couldn't use hidden cameras to report the activity as it would be more natural reactions. Body cams? Body microphones? Well "big brother is watching" would come to mind.
That being said, in this situation perhaps the Police had a concern that people might react differently with media presence. With the intent of the group to be armed, it was a recipe for the general public to wonder if something bad was going to happen. Participants challenging authority in the very public eye of the media.
Again when I was young, I recall going to a stock car race because part of the excitement was to see the wrecks. The more coverage of the Black Panther March from the media would there be more "wrecks?"