Cleveland Story: Where Will the Focus Be Next?

The media circus will turn next to Gina DeJesus, who returns home this week.

Members of the Guardian Angels stand outside the home of kidnap victim Gina DeJesus. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Members of the Guardian Angels stand outside the home of kidnap victim Gina DeJesus. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Cleveland kidnapping case has all the elements of an unforgettable news story, including a bizarre crime, innocent victims, heroes and a happy, at least for the most part, ending,” Michael Malone wrote Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable.

“As such, it’s nothing short of a circus on site in Cleveland, as the local TV reporters trade elbows with news crews from as far away as Australia, Japan and Argentina to follow the story of the three women, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, who were freed earlier in the week.

” ‘It’s a sea of reporters at the scene of both homes,’ says Dan Salamone, news director at Raycom’s WOIO. ‘It presents a challenge for the police, and also for us as we continue to try and bring the story home for local viewers. It’s a mad scene.’

“The next big get will be with the victims. One victim’s relative attempted to speak to the media Wednesday, but gave up when she was not able to be heard. ‘It’s going to take some time,’ says Brooke Spectorsky, president and general manager of Gannett’s WKYC. ‘They’ve been locked up for ten years, and it’s a circus out there.’ . . . “

Meanwhile, Charles Ramsey, who was lauded as a folk hero this week, remained in the spotlight — but not always in a good way.

Some debated whether viewers were laughing with him or at him, and the Smoking Gun reported, “The Cleveland man credited with helping free female captives from a house of horrors is a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms, court records show.

“Charles Ramsey, whose 911 call and subsequent TV interviews have made him a microcelebrity, was once a repeat spousal abuser whose marriage ended in divorce following a 2003 felony conviction for battering his wife. . . .”

Ramsey himself rejected the “hero” label. “I don’t even want it,” Ramsey told Russ Mitchell and Erin Kennedy of WKYC-TV in Cleveland in one of several media appearances. “They keep saying I’m a hero. Let me tell you something, I’m an American, and I’m a human being. I’m just like you. I work for a living. There was a woman in distress, so why turn your back on that? My father would have whupped the hell out of me if he found out that I had coward-ed out.”

Cleveland police announced Wednesday that they had charged Ariel Castro with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape in connection with holding Berry, DeJesus and Knight captive for the last decade, the Plain Dealer reported, conveniently listing the day’s developments on its website under the headline, “8 things we learned today about the Decade of Captivity for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

The Plain Dealer editorialized, “tomorrow and the next day and on into the discernable future, the community must do more to impede the cold-blooded predators who walk among us.

“And we must continue to collaborate, educate and hold law enforcement officials accountable to better protect young people from sexual exploitation. That means re-evaluating, again, how Cleveland police handle missing-persons cases. They need to keep looking and working every lead until the missing are found. . . .”

Rebecca Aguilar, News Treadmill blog: Cleveland case sheds light on 800,000 children reported missing in the U.S.

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Kidnap hero’s colorful interview leads to 2013 kind of tribute

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: ““Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms.”

Margaret Bernstein, Plain Dealer: Freed women give missing-persons activist Judy Martin a reason to be joyful

Michael H. Cottman, Black America Web: Charles Ramsey: American Hero or Racial Healer?

Mark Dawidziak, Plain Dealer: For missing-women story, national news outlets quickly shift focus to Cleveland

Kevin Eck, TVSpy: Kidnap Hero’s Interview Gets Taiwan Animation Treatment

Pat Galbincea, Plain Dealer: Cleveland will investigate 9-1-1 call from Amanda Berry

Arturo R. García, Racialicious: Open Thread 2: The Rush To Memeify Charles Ramsey

Doug Gross, CNN: Why the Web loves Cleveland hero Charles Ramsey

Aisha Harris, Slate: The Troubling Viral Trend of the “Hilarious” Black Neighbor

Demetria Irwin, the Grio: Charles Ramsey is an American hero, not a ‘hilarious’ meme

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times: McDonald’s shamelessly exploits Cleveland rescue

Tara McKelvey, BBC News Magazine: Cleveland abductions: Do white victims get more attention? (May 9)

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland must do a better job of protecting and finding its missing women

Sara Morrison, Columbia Journalism Review: The Plain Dealer columnist who knew Amanda Berry’s mother

Erin McClam and Jeff Black, NBC News: Who’s who in the Cleveland kidnapping case?

Mark Naymik, Plain Dealer: Charles Ramsey breaks stereotypes by helping Amanda Berry escape but will the Internet notice? (video)

Michael O’Malley, Plain Dealer: Castro family among first Hispanics to settle in Cleveland, coming from Puerto Rico just after World War II

Cliff Pinckard, Plain Dealer: Discovery of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight a worldwide phenomenon (video)

Connor Simpson, the Atlantic: Charles Ramsey Is an Internet Hero for All the Wrong Reasons

Debbi Snook, Plain Dealer: Charles Ramsey is hero for rescuing Amanda Berry, chef employer says

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Anderson Cooper Chats With Cleveland Hero Charles Ramsey

N.Y. Daily News Lays Off Albor Ruiz, Tim Smith

The Daily News in New York Wednesday laid off columnist Tim Smith, the last African American in its sports department, and Albor Ruiz, a columnist who often wrote about Hispanic issues. Joe Pompeo, reporter for capitalnewyork.com, wrote, “Several sources put the total number of pink slips at around 15.”

The news of Joanna Molloy’s termination was particularly shocking,” Pompeo wrote. “She’s arguably the most famous writer still at the paper, having helmed its gossip pages for 15 years with her husband, George Rush, who took a buyout in 2010. . . .”

Smith, 53, known primarily as a boxing writer, told Journal-isms by telephone that he’d covered a range of sports events over 30 years and that “I would like to do anything that comes my way. I’m open to any and everything.”

Smith said he was told that he was selected for the layoff because the News had identified categories of employees who would be eliminated and one of the three sports columnists’ positions was on the list. There are 33 writers in the News sports department, he said.

Smith wrote about boxing while at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Evander Holyfield, later a five-time heavyweight champion, left the Olympics in 1984. Smith also wrote about boxing for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the New York Times, where he was also an NFL writer. In Cincinnati, he covered the Bengals NFL team, and at the Times, the New York Jets.

Smith won the Nat Fleischer Memorial Award from the Boxing Writers’ Association of New York for excellence in boxing journalism in 2005.

Ruiz, 71, has been a columnist since July 1993, according to his LinkedIn profile. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame. “Next? I am not really sure, but I have no plans to disappear from the face of the Earth,” Ruiz messaged Journal-isms. “I’ll be around.”

Ruiz, a Cuban-American, came to the United States in 1961. When he returned from a trip to Cuba in 2006, Ruiz told Journal-isms he had a Cuban passport, “as all Cubans do.” Cuban immigration authorities held him for two hours at the airport in Havana, but they allowed him to enter “because I have family in Cuba. I would not be granted a permit to work as a journalist,” he said. Nevertheless, Ruiz said he went to work anyway and interviewed a dissident.

Ruiz’s most recent columns carry such headlines as “New York City’s public libraries need their patrons to stand up against mayoral budget cuts,” “The Gang of Eight’s proposed immigration reform bill must be inclusive and not punitive,” “Childcare workers’ union leaders blast Bloomberg administration’s EarlyLearn NYC program,” “Once again, May Day is a time for workers to stand up and speak out in defense of their rights,” and “The city’s hunger crisis stands to worsen as funding cuts to the food stamp program loom”.

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