Saturday, November 22, 2008

Texts of Reckoning

Remember Eugene Shelton? -- the TV news photog who whipped out his cellphone in the middle of a sheriff's briefing and - with a few text messages - let a nightclub-owning buddy know about that many men in Kevlar were heading his way?
"On the way to you man. Mickey's. Clean it up now."
That's ballsy. And stupid. But I'm not here to pass judgement on Mr Shelton. That's Onslow County District Court Judge Louis Foy's job, who just last week, found the 32 year old former photog Guilty of obstructing an officer. His 72 hours of community service and suspended sentence won't go down in the annals of crime history, but his story can serve as a cautionary tale for those of with an all-access pass to crackhouses, squad-cars and palaces.
...The messages were sent May 3 in the middle of a 3 a.m. briefing by the Sheriff's Department in preparation of a raid on Club Mickey's on U.S. 258 between Jacksonville and Richlands.
Been there. No really, I've been there! A the dawn of the nineties I worked the crime and grime circuit all over Eastern North Carolina, from the backrooms of the Brown Building in downtown Greenville to the fingerprint machine at Kinston P.D., I huddled with detectives and rode shotgun with deputies as they raided everything from meth-labs to moonshine stills. Many an early morning I joined the Crown Vic convention at King's Bar Be Cue in Kinston and gorged on a hillbilly breakfast buffet, before loading up in some officer's ride for a pre-dawn road on drug case roundups. All while living like a dirt poor college kid!
...To keep information about the raid from leaking out beforehand, (Sheriff Ed Brown) told everyone in the meeting not to use their cell phones until cleared to do so...
But even though I recognized the irony of hanging out with vice cops in the morning and college town derelicts in the afternoon, it never occured to me to mix my chocolate with with anybody's peanut butter. Luckily for me, professional freshmen with frisbee golf addictions were never really targeted by the local po-leece, so I never had to decide whether I should rat out that shady neighbor who for beer money would re-wire your apartment with illegal cable TV. Even if I had, I can't imagine digging my bag phone (remember those?) out of my heavily logoed Ford Escort and dropping the dime on much of anybody.
...WITN-TV news reporter Chelsea Donovan testified she saw Shelton texting during the briefing, She also told the court that she saw Shelton and Heather Ford - a reporter for Channel 12 at the time - arguing after the meeting...
Torn loyalties, unfettered access and perhaps, too much technology. It all adds up to a momentary lapse of reason that continues to affect one news shooter's life, career and reputation. It's enough to make one want to take up clean livin' - that or do something about that nasty news habit... Seriously, there are hotlines for that kind of stuff!

1 comment:

Duff said...

We had an intern that would text people at competing stations, saying "we're at this, why aren't you here covering it?" Turns out our EP's wife works at the other station, caught wind of it, and brought a conclusion to that intern's long and illustrious news career. Stupid text messages.