By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Two weeks ago, Kambui turned the tables, filing a claim with the city of Los Angeles seeking unspecified damages for false arrest, illegal seizure, malicious prosecution and damaged property. After hearing testimony by such experts as Scott Imler of the Cannabis Buyers Club, a judge had decided in November that Kambui’s activities were authorized by the medical-marijuana initiative (Proposition 215) and ordered her plants returned. But what the LAPD finally gave her in December was moldy and unusable. "It took me a year to cultivate that Keif," she said solemnly. "I gave them a Lamborghini and they returned a Pinto."
Since her release from jail, Kambui, a Black Panther in the 1960s, has continued her hemp activism through a Web site (www.hempishep.org). She also makes marijuana tinctures, butter and cookies to relieve the pain and nausea of three dozen sufferers of sickle cell anemia — an excruciating bone and blood disease affecting mostly African-Americans. Unlike many of her hemp compadres, Kambui is not shy about her support of decriminalization. "Hemp is one plant," explained Sister Somayah. "We are not playing the skin game with the cannabis plant and hemp fiber and seeds and oils." Kambui also is the lead organizer of Saturday’s Million Marijuana March, a May Day hemp rally at Earvin "Magic" Johnson Park at El Segundo and Avalon. The rally is part of a 25-city effort from London to Auckland.—David Cogan
Two hours after the shooting stopped at Columbine High School, an assignment editor in one Western network news bureau was overheard saying, "The story’s over, now we’re the nightmare." By the end of the first day, his news organization had booked airline reservations, hotel rooms, rental cars and charter Lear jets for 125 into tragedy-struck Littleton, Colorado, sources said.
Other networks followed suit, emptying their Los Angeles bureaus. Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, with their king’s-court entourages, arrived on Day 2 for live shots in front of familiar tableaux of yellow police tape and flower-stacked memorials. Promptly after the broadcasts, Jennings and Brokaw were back in their respective towers in New York; Rather stayed another day. And while the networks sent the most representatives, they were the tip of the iceberg. Cable news channels such as MSNBC, hoping to boost flaccid post-Monica ratings, swarmed the scene.
Every major U.S. local television affiliate laid claim to a parcel of land outside the school, and journalists flew in from as far away as Germany and Tokyo. Even a few J-school wannabes bivouacked in. By the end of the week, a milelong cortege of media-related vehicles stretched from the campus, and frigid, muddy reporters were bumping into each other at every corner, sources on the scene said. Estimated media presence in Littleton, population 39,504: 1,000. "This is like media Woodstock," one network sound technician was heard to say.
Of course, the entertainment wasn’t music but the unexpected death of 13 people. One media rep in Littleton told OffBeat that a network booker — someone who travels around the country competing for the big "get" interviews — spent all day Wednesday on the phone with the family members of a victim, who finally agreed to a meeting. When the booker and the crew showed up at the family’s house a short time later, a sign was posted on the front lawn: "20/20go away!"
"It becomes a feeding frenzy, and it’s not driven by the editorial weight of the story," said one network news producer of press blitzes like the one in Columbine. "It’s driven by the fact that your competitor may get to the story before you . . . If he’s the first one on the air with information . . . you got beat, and when you get beat, your ass gets fired."
Things got so hectic that a crew from one network magazine was in the home of a Columbine survivor who had just been released from the hospital, when another crew from the same magazine telephoned. "Truthfully, we’re going to milk this thing for all it’s worth," a network producer from New York told OffBeat. "At some point, the people start shutting down emotionally, but reporters, we don’t know when to go."
Scott Johnson, the father of one of the boys who went on a school shooting spree in Jonesboro, Arkansas, 13 months ago, writes about relentless media coverage in the current issue of Newsweek. "I worry about the way the media cover tragedies like these," he says. "I can’t help but wonder if the nonstop pictures and commentary and endless scrutiny somehow give desperate kids in need of attention a way to get it. The kids turn themselves into martyrs hoping to get on the evening news."
Live coverage of the Columbine memorial service on Sunday included a tear-jerker performance by Amy Grant and a stone-carving speech by Al Gore. Over refrains of born-again Christian music, NBC’s Stone Phillips lowered his head and searched deeply for the exact word to sum it all up. Finally, it came to him. "Truly . . . awesome."—Greg Brouwer