Category Archives: citizen journalism

Curating A Revolution: YouTube’s Head of News and Politics on Video From Iran


June 25, 2009, 0700 GMT — Here is a revealing interview from Al Jazeera’s new media guy with YouTube’s head of news and politics, Steve Grove. Grove explains why YouTube has made the decisions they have lately (moreorless violating their own TOS) to keep YouTube as uncensored and as open a platform as possible for media  dissemination during the Iran election aftermath.

Some of these issues regarding YouTube and media from Iran were discussed in my interview from June 22, 2009 with IT security expert, Ariel Silverstone. That is here.

The Anatomy of Yet Another Unnecessary Murder: How the Justice System Failed Eugenia Calle and Is Failing Us All


From Tina Trent’s Crime Victims Media Report. Background: Eugenia Calle was murdered in her midtown Atlanta condo on Tuesday, February 17, 2009. Shamal Thompson is charged with her murder. This is Trent’s research on the criminal record of Thompson.

The Anatomy of Yet Another Unnecessary Murder: How the Justice System Failed Eugenia Calle and Is Failing Us All


What follows is a preliminary effort to piece together Shamal (aka Jamal) Thompson’s long and troubling journey through Georgia’s broken criminal justice system prior to February 17, 2009, the day he murdered* an innocent cancer researcher named Eugenia Calle.  Ten months earlier, a DeKalb County Superior Court Judge named Cynthia J. Becker let Thompson walk free from what should have been a ten-year sentence for burglary.  She did so on the grounds that he was a first-time offender.

He was not.

I gathered the records of Thompson’s many other criminal charges and pleas merely through Internet searches and a few phone calls to court clerks in Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties in Georgia.  These counties and jurisdictions vary quite significantly in their commitment to making public safety information available to the public.  Fulton County’s public records system is almost uniquely shameful in comparison to similar courts throughout the country, while DeKalb County’s records are impressively detailed and easy to access on-line.

This information is preliminary, based only on a few phone calls and web searches.  If you choose to reproduce or quote this article, please understand that I am unable to guarantee its absolute accuracy at this point.  Court records themselves often contain errors, and I can only reproduce what is entered on-line by the courts.  However, I include the public records case numbers for every case I cite, and if anyone involved in the justice system (or not) wishes to offer corrections or add to this account, please contact me through this website.

Why Didn’t Judge Cynthia Becker Do What I Did?

Read the rest of this entry

Solving Atlanta’s Crime Statistics Mystery


As I handed my kid her Sunday morning plate of blueberry pancakes and simultaneously wrenched the remote out of her hand so I could tune-in the Georgia Gang (I’m getting really good at this maneuver), away goes Sponge Bob and up pops Phil Kent, who was deep in the momentary thrall of calling Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin “a liar.”

Kent says Mayor Franklin is telling outright lies when she says, as she did again recently, that crime in Atlanta is, statistically, down. Kent says Franklin is lying because crimes in the City of Atlanta are actually up, but there’s no way to prove this because APD is not providing accurate stats for interested parties – the “interested parties” being local journalism outlets such as The Sunday Paper and the AJC; that any efforts by journos-with-money to find reliable and accurate crime stats are being thwarted by APD and/or, I presume, City Hall.

Kent cited The Sunday Paper’s recent story by editor Stephanie Ramage about crime stats in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods as his journo-source in this matter. In the story, Ramage is hinting of a gross cover-up or manipuation by APD of the actual crime stats in Atlanta – a deeply serious charge with criminal implications for those involved, and an historical issue former APD deputy chief  Louis Arcangeli has never been shy about going on the record about, at the expense of his APD job too. From The Sunday Paper:

“You are talking about a department that has a proven, documented track record of manipulating the numbers, so you have to consider that the police department might be doing it again,” says Louis Arcangeli, a former deputy chief of the APD who now teaches criminal justice at Georgia State University. “The amount of public concern is completely at odds with the numbers, and that’s troubling.”

(And the matter of The Sunday Paper being a credible news org was laughingly and haughtily dismissed by Jeff Dickerson on today’s Georgia Gang episode, but that’s a whole other can ‘o worms for a whole other blog post right now. Still, what else we got to help us out in the urgent and critical need for data-driven, reliable journalism? The Panda Press (AJC)?. Thus my plea here. Keep reading.)

Whatever Kent says, Mayor Franklin’s numerous attempts to cite magical statistics about crime in Atlanta are not getting any leverage in the court of public perception. Citizens simply feel crime is out of control. Everyone feels victimized by crime. (This I know from my own citizen reporting on the matter.) People feel Chief Pennington is out-to-lunch and indifferent to their perception. Pennington sure doesn’t help when he says citizens concerns are based on citizens’ “misperceptions.”

To heck with Chief Pennington though, as Atlantans Together Against Crime (ATAC) continues to enlist thousands to their grass-roots cause, with the next ATAC rally scheduled for Monday, February 23rd at 5pm at the corner of MLK and Joseph Lowery.

The big problem for Mayor Franklin is that the stories from the droves of crime victims in Atlanta are now being heard. It doesn’t really matter if crime is up or down, come to think about it. The thing that matters is, because of social media and the networks created in that medium, stories can now be told in new media ways they never were before. The pain of the people comes through loud and clear online… now that harrowing tales of death and survival on the mean street of the ATL are so easily told and shared. Yes, despite City Hall’s best efforts to tone down the citizenry’s rhetoric, voices will be heard.

But that’s one piece of the new media pie in the matter of Atlanta’s magical crime stats. The other is the hard, cold reality of what the crime stats really are now. Who do you believe? Are they up or are they down? Let’s put the matter to Professor Leonard Witt and Kennessaw State University (KSU). Why this place? Why this person?

Because Witt and KSU just received some nice bucks (1.5 million to be precise) to create The Center for Sustainable Journalism. Given the mission and the message of The Center for Sustainable Journalism (CSJ), seems Atlanta’s mysterious crime stats would be the perfect place to apply the resources KSU now has.

From the press release about The Center for Sustainable Journalism (CSJ):

KENNESAW, Ga. (February 7, 2009) In the midst of an annual conference designed to pinpoint the Southeast’s niche in the digital media revolution, Kennesaw State University announced receipt of a $1.5 million gift from the Harnisch Foundation to establish a center to research and develop innovative ways to produce and distribute news.

Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp announced the award and the creation of The Center for Sustainable Journalism Feb. 7 at the SoCon09 “Unconference” attended by more than 300 business, non-profit and media professionals, bloggers and digital media enthusiasts.

The center will be overseen by Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication, eminent scholar and associate professor, who organized the SoCon09 conference. Witt is a pioneer in developing community-supported journalism models and exploring the potential of online social networks to disseminate news.

Full press release here.

Crime and the APD’s ability to control it aside, what is sustainable in Atlanta now are the networks and the crowd sourcing and the social media structure that would allow for deep and comprehensive dissemination of the journalistic, data-driven findings of a journalism project that would help the citizens of all metro Atlanta  get to the heart of our mysterious and sometimes magical crime stats situation.

So what’dya say, CSJ? Wanna get crackin’ on tackling a community-based journalism project right in your own backyard? Enquiring minds need to know, and it might help a lot of people sleep better at night. And I’m always good for a quickie video package or two.

ATAC Rally #1 – Little Five Points, Atlanta


On Monday, January 26, 2009, held its first rally to raise awareness about crime in intown Atlanta neighborhoods — and what to do about it.

Citizens from a variety of intown Atlanta, GA neighborhoods spoke to WaySouth Media, Inc. about why they participated in the rally, and how crime has effected their neighborhoods.

The rally was held in the Little Five Points’ Findley Plaza. The crowd was estimated by a local media news outlet (AJC) to be about 175 people. Atlanta City Council members present at this rally: Mary Norwood (’10 Mayor of Atlanta candidate) and Kwanza Hall.

Please share and embed!

Atlantans Together Against Crime and Cutbacks


A WaySouth Media video report from an early morning vigil on January 8, 2009 for Atlanta restaurant, The Standard’s, popular bartender, John Henderson, who was murdered while closing the restaurant on Wednesday, January 7, 2009.

City of Atlanta intown neighborhood residents express their outrage at recent, drastic cutbacks to city protective services, such as police and fire, and vow to organize to do something to end the perceived crime wave many residents feel has plagued Atlanta in 2008 and now 2009.

City of Atlanta residents Tessa Horehled and Kyle Keyser (himself a victim of recent violent crime) have organized Atlantans Together Against Crime and Cutback (ATACC). The website is:

more about “Atlantans Against Crime and Cutbacks …“, posted with vodpod

2008 – The Year In CJ Videos


Wow. What a year it’s been! 2008 was one for the ages. And one whereby I got out the camera and the Windows Movie Maker and became a hardworking citizen v-journalist… or whatever you care to call it. Here are some of my video highlights for 2008. In no particular order:

1.) Coming in with the most views, over 32K on YouTube alone, is Tornado Rips Downtown Atlanta. My queendom for a bat-light with that one. But people still clicked-on. I have since picked-up a light at an Abracadabra Video yard sale for about $20.

2.) The video quality came out poor in this one. The  usual compression  issues I struggle with. But I have since decided that Vimeo’s quality is so much better that I will use that sharing site from here on out, rather than YouTube. Still, Obama SC Volunteers remains a fave for 2008 as  even though Obama didn’t win SC, it captured the essence of the Obama win overall. Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the prize.

3.) By far THE best, most informative conference I’ve been to in the new media realm was the heavy hitter-ridden 1st Computation & Journalism Symposium at Georgia Tech. An interview from that with Michael Skoler, Executive Director, Center For Innovation In Journalism, American Public Media is here.

4.) Although it didn’t come to be for Georgia, Obama’s Phantom Swing State turned out well and made a nice HuffPost’s Off The Bus offering.

5.) The feel-good All Saints’ Episcopal Church Habitat build video was fun to shoot, and is now featured nicely on the All Saints’ website.

6.) Brrrrrr… this one done for Insider Advantage (a client) makes me cold because it was so freakin’ cold that King Day outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue during a Presidential election year. It makes me laugh though. Poor FP Bill. His meds were way off that day. Heck, Bill’s meds were needing adjustment all year long!

7.) I think my personal, all-time favorite moment captured on tape in 2008 was the infectious laugh of an unsuspecting Bernita Smith. Bernita battled not only Republicans all year long, but a wicked-ugly diagnosis of breast cancer too. Bernita is the face, the laugh, of one tough fuck-you-to-cancer Georgia peach.

Thanks for clicking-on throughout 2008. May our 2009 be half as interesting and exciting as 2008!

Rev. Joseph Lowery Talks About Obama


Back in July, I caught a few moments on video at Manuel’s Tavern with Reverend Joseph Lowery… talking about, at the time, the Obama candidacy. And hope. And promise.