By Gerard Braud –
Anderson Cooper 360 is asking you on Twitter to respond to his question, “Do you think Brian Williams can ever return to the news?” My previous blog post outlines my latest take on the Brian Williams crisis and the conditions in which he could, but likely won’t return to the news desk.
With this photo of me and Anderson Cooper, I’ll make other observations.
Anderson Cooper and other media must proceed cautiously in their discussion of Brian Williams. The standards they hold Williams to will be applied to them as well.
Let us peak behind the curtain on how the media cover the news, based on my experience as a television news reporter for 15 years.
Many people have a flawed perception of the media based on what they think the media are. People fail to realize that being a journalist is a complicated job. Reporters must make complicated choices daily about what to put on television and what not to put on television.
Let me take you behinds the scene on an Anderson Cooper and Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) story that didn’t make the news.
The photo you see above is me, in the Top Hat and Tails with the large pink beads, talking to Anderson Cooper. Behind me is my brass band, and behind the band is a yellow cross that says, “Jesus is Love.”
This is Mardi Gras 2006, just six months after Hurricane Katrina. The events of this moment were not reported by Anderson Cooper because there was no conflict, even though moments before, six CNN cameras were moving in on my group as the cross-carrying-group taunted us in ways that set the stage for a potential street fight and some amazing news footage.
As I tell the story, think about these questions:
- What does this say about media coverage?
- What does this say about the judgments the media make every day?
- What might this say about Anderson Cooper and all media who try to tip toe into and around the Brian Williams crisis?
I’ll answer those questions after I give you this brief side note on who I am when you don’t see me in my professional capacity.
I was born in New Orleans on Monday, February 10, 1958. Mardi Gras day was just eight days later. Mom says she held me at the hospital window as the parades rolled by. I’m a Mardi Gras nut through and through. I volunteer as a board member for the Krewe of Mid-City parade. The Krewe is one of the 34 self-funded, non-commercial parades that roll down a 60-block parade route through the neighborhoods. We roll past screaming children on ladders waiting to catch a bead or stuffed animal from me, as their parents manage picnics and bar-b-ques. I’ve been a parade King and serve as the Krewe Jester. And truth be known – 12 hours before this photo was taken I lead a comedy sketch in which I portrayed the ugly “Queen Katrina Duvet Debris” (which is why I can never run for Congress). I’m also the founder of the Krewe’s Gentlemen’s Top Hat, Tails and Cigar Stroll, in which, accompanied by a brass band, we walk through the French Quarter bestowing beads and smiles upon those who have come to New Orleans to experience a slice of our culture.
On the day in the photo, our Gentlemen were smiling as we headed down Bourbon Street with our band and the crowd was smiling with us. After Hurricane Katrina, everyone in New Orleans needed a reason to smile and we were there to do just that. As we approached the Royal Sonesta Hotel, the out-of-town-cross-carrying-group that shows up every year to condemn everyone they see, began to shout at us over their megaphone. They were marching toward us with aggression. (And don’t get me started on how these people obviously missed the part where Jesus talked about not throwing stones and loving thy neighbor. #hypocrite )
They began to shout condemnation toward us via their megaphone. Anderson Cooper and his crew jumped to their feet. Anderson grabbed his video camera and hurried toward me. Cameras on booms came floating down from the balconies above us. Producers were getting excited. They were likely writing mental headlines about The Mardi Gras Melee that would lead tonight’s broadcast. You just can’t beat a headline with alliteration!
The crisis management guy and former reporter in me stopped our group, as I saw the story CNN wanted to tell, but which I was not going to let unfold or be told.
I gathered my guys and the band together. I asked if the band knew how to play Amazing Grace. The band members huddled and worked out the key. Meanwhile, I instructed the Gentlemen to line up in straight rows across the street. The instructions were for everyone to smile and to make no verbal or physical contact with the cross carrying group. The band struck up Amazing Grace and we walked peacefully through the angry cross carriers, demonstrating the irony of “the sinners” were acting more like saints than the self-anointed loud mouths.
There was amazing disappointment on the faces of every member of the CNN crew. In the photo, Anderson is rolling video tape, asking me, “What just happened?” “Who are you guys?”
We chatted, knowing that a potential story just evaporated into thin air for CNN.
What does this say about media coverage? News is generally negative. 99% of what is shot on videotape is thrown away.
What does this say about the judgements the media make everyday? If it is not negative, is it not news?
What might this say about Anderson Cooper and all media who try to tip toe into and around the Brian Williams crisis? There are millions of people who have encounters with the media, who are ready to tell their side of the story regarding their interaction with reporters. The more the media cover Brian Williams, the more those covering his story could find themselves being scrutinized over what they have covered or not covered in the past.
Anderson Cooper didn’t cover my story because I intentionally made it a non-story.
Anderson made the right call that day, but I can also hear the cries of those who would think he should have made a news story out of it anyway.
(If you don’t hear much from me over the next few days, it is because this is the weekend of the Krewe of Mid-City Parade on Sunday, and the Gentlemen’s Top Hat, Tails & Cigar Stroll on Saturday. I hope we get to share a smile together.)
P.S. In keeping with my Brian Williams blog from two days ago, the above story is true to the teller.