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Helicopters over Alameda in the wee hours

This time it has to do with two closed lanes on 880 near High Street and maybe ?? the memorial later today at the Coliseum for the four Oakland police officers slain last week.

At 5:30 a.m., 5:50 a.m. 6:45 a.m. the helicopter noise goes on!

Apparently, there has been some effort made to curtail the low-flying, noise-making beasts over Oakland and Alameda. But, according to this article by Angela Woodall, not much progress has been made. From Woodall, here’s the lay of the land which allows the disruptive noise to persist:

...The majority of all complaints the FAA receives are about noise. But the agency only handles air-safety-related complaints, not grievances about noise. Those should go to the municipality, FAA officials said.

But Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said air-traffic noise complaints cannot be handled by the city.

Oh well, no one can enforce any regulations. But we can ask:

Nadel said she met last year with pilots from all the major Bay Area news stations, FAA official David Smith, a staff member from the office of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, because helicopters were more prevalent than usual in West Oakland in the aftermath of the MacArthur Maze collapse.

Nadel said the pilots pledged to try to be sensitive within the constraints of being forced to fly low by air traffic controllers to facilitate airplane traffic and their news directors’ orders to get the precise shot they need at the precise moment they ask for it, which can require them to hover for 15 minutes or longer.

Basically, we here on the ground are at the mercy of some newsdirector’s ‘need’ for a particular shot. But, this morning, we already know two lanes are closed on 880, and we know there’s going to be a memorial later. Do we need to hover for hours? Perhaps the reporting dollars might be better spent on the ground investigating the Oakland social and political forces that led some people to celebrate as a hero the man who killed the four police officers last week. Perhaps that is a more important story than the lanes closed this on 880 due to a construction this morning?

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Michele Ellson of The Island makes news

If you haven’t been reading Michele Ellson’s The Island, you should be. She’s putting out a great deal of news—all focused on Alameda. This write up at Idea Lab (a media blog) shows she’s making news off-island as well as reporting on-island. In the interview, Ellson, a former print reporter, explains why she launched The Island:

I started covering local news for two reasons. One is practical: With two small kids at home, it’s what I can do. But another is that local news really isn’t being covered well by papers right now. Their resources are shrinking, and with papers becoming more corporate, I think the focus on being local and having a commitment to a local community sometimes is not there.

Ellson made this observation about her new role:

I’ve found covering local news to be a lot more challenging than I expected, and in some respects a little more challenging than covering an issue beat.

For one, you have to be able to speak intelligently on everything from education policy to municipal finance to, in my case, environmental cleanup issues. And people are so invested in these local issues they aren’t shy about letting you know when they think you’ve messed up — in the most personal and derogatory terms possible, I might add.

The whole interview is here.

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Alameda: What is news?

With the dying newspaper industry (here, here, and here) being the discussion of the era, and Jon Stewart’s calling out of CNBC’s Jim Cramer being the discussion of the week, The Chronicle’s Phil Bronstein had this post Friday about how Jon Stewart is NOT the news.

Bronstein’s argument runs something along the lines of if Stewart is news then suddenly all news will be required to be funny. He writes, “Will Katie Couric be replaced by someone with a big red nose and floppy shoes?” Uh, who knows. But if that person is asking hard questions about such things as, for example, why no one was safe-guarding the public good while banks and bankers spun further and further out of control or what the heck happened in Iraq, then maybe the nose doesn’t matter.

The real deal is that—no matter what form it takes, be it blog, comedy show, newspaper article, or conversation—what is important to a democratic society is the willingness to ask hard questions, to do real research, and to find out what makes sense: the pursuit of truth. And no matter what Bronstein says, by that standard Stewart is one of the best things we’ve got going for news right now.