A Real Crisis

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I think I have finally mastered the art of blogging: Ask your friends to do all the work and sit back and take the credit! Below you will see how I have accomplished this. I really put KFI Radio Laura Ingle to work today. I have her reporting on the Michael Jackson (search) trial in E-mail No. 2 and reporting on a media social event (a behind the scenes at the Jackson trial) in E-mail No. 1. Not only do I have her busy on her Blackberry sending text in E-mails No.1 and 2, but I also have her taking pictures — I did the captions — and sending them to post on the blog. Check out the pictures in the photo box above.

Last night we showed you a "tease" of our trip to the Columbus Zoo (search). I was asked by my producer which segment to show you to tease our hour-long special and I suggested the one where Jack Hanna put gross giant cockroaches on me. She thought that too disgusting — they are disgusting — and opted for the one you saw. Frankly, from the tone of some recently received e-mails, it occurred to me that some viewers would like to see roaches crawling all over me! Just kidding.

I just found out today that Mark Cuban (search), owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, is joining us next Thursday. He is the producer of the new movie: "Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room." I watched it over the weekend and, as I e-mailed Mark, the movie made me very mad. It is terrible that so many people lost so much money while those at the top got so very rich. And they did not get rich by accident or good business sense. According to the movie, they did it by "cooking the books" — a nice way to say "by committing crimes." So many people lost jobs, pensions, etc. If you have seen the movie, e-mail me. I want to know if the movie had the same impact on you.

I have received many e-mails asking what kind of camera I use for pictures on the Web site. I use a Sony T -7 — I just replaced my Sony T-1. I use the T-7 (a point and shoot) because it is so small (I can slip in my pocket) and it is 5.1 megapixels. Frankly I think all point and shoots are alike — except when it comes to size and weight of the camera and that matters to me. Unless the camera is small — very small — it sits on my desk at home. That is not helpful when I want to shoot pictures for you on some location. The T-7 is always with me to the point where many find me annoying pulling it out and snapping.

E-mail No. 1 — Laura Ingle sent me some pics with a "cover" e-mail. I added the captions to the pics:

Hi Greta,

After 49 trial days with no lunch breaks at the Jackson trial, the city and chamber of commerce of Santa Maria threw a good old-fashioned BBQ for the starving group of reporters on assignment.

What many people may not know, is that Santa Maria is world famous for the style of BBQ specific to this area. The tradition started here in the mid-19th Century when cowboys and ranchers would gather in the spring to brand their calves. The traditional feast includes BBQ sirloin and tri-tip, salsa, pinquito beans, toasted French bread and a green salad. When you cruise around the city, day or night, you can usually smell BBQ in the air! Yesterday we all got to try the world famous feast, as the folks in Santa Maria set up a huge grill in the courthouse parking lot next to the Lawn Bowling Club.

I took some pictures for you and your viewers so you could check it out. Again, this IS NOT a normal day for us! The reporters you see in the pictures usually have zone bars and bags of peanuts stuffed in their suit pockets to try to get through the day! We were all grateful for the special grub — maybe they'll do it again if they find out you are coming to visit Greta … hint, hint, hint.

Check out Laura's photos by clicking on the images in the photo box above!

E-mail No. 2 — from Laura Ingle at the Jackson trial:

Subject: Laura note

Macaulay Culkin (search) was not on the stand long today and gave Jackson's defense team exactly what it was looking for. A short, to the point list of denials that Jackson ever did anything inappropriate with him, or any other children. When Tom Mesereau asked him if Jackson molested him, he said "Never" ... if he had been touched in a sexual way by Jackson, answer: "No." When asked by Mesereau what he thought of the charges against Hackson, Culkin said they were "absolutely ridiculous."

Culkin, now 24, was a frequent overnight guest at Neverland and described his sleepovers in a very casual way. He said he would just be playing with Jackson, get tired and go to sleep wherever he was. He'd fall asleep on video games, on the floor, in Jackson's bed. He was evasive at times and was on the defense when pressed by a very agitated sounding Ron Zonen. Zonen pounced on Culkin during his cross exam about his take of "innocent sleepovers," asking Culkin if he knew what happened to him when he was asleep when he was in Jackson's bed. Culkin: "As far as I know .... he never molested me. I think I would realize something like that if it had happened to me." Zonen pressed on about what sounded like many narcoleptic episodes. Remember, a former chef testified that he saw Jackson stick his hand down the pants of Culkin while the two were playing video games. Today, Culkin said that is where he once zonked out. Culkin repeatedly said, "It was a casual thing." Zonen asked him point blank if he — at the age of 10 — had a habit of sleeping in the beds of 35-year-old men. Culkin said no, but that he and Jackson had a special friendship, because Jackson understood what it was like to be a child star.

I was in the courtroom when Culkin finished — jurors eyeballed him a bit when he left, looking like they were trying to figure out his testimony. Other court observers noticed that some jurors laughed with Culkin when he tried to break the ice with a little joke, others said they looked serious.

You can cut his testimony both ways. He says Jackson didn't touch him and never was inappropriate. But you can't help but think about how little and cute he was when he was 10 sleeping alone night after night unsupervised in bed with a 35-year-old man.

Also, I'm hearing Mark Geragos may be called by the defense this week. He's got a big trial he's doing in Orange County and can't be here until Friday, I hear.

Tension is building between lawyers too. More to come on that...

E-mail No. 3 — This following e-mail is about Jennifer Wilbanks and the revelation that she has a multiple arrest record for shoplifting:

Well Greta, I guess this girl had me fooled in a way. I'm surprised that she has a past record, but I knew she had emotional problems, as did the rest of the nation. I'm glad she's getting help. I hope for his sake that the fiance comes to his senses, because his future could be very difficult if he stands by her. It's a shame, but true. I hope she does come out of this stronger, but I would not bet on it. I'm afraid she's a perfect candidate for post partum depression, etc., etc., etc.
Linda Allen
Brookfield, WI

E-mail No. 4

Greta, I love your show. You and your regular guests are so brilliant and articulate. Having said that, could the subject matter match your capabilities? It is beginning to sound like a police blotter. It is not very enjoyable in the late evening. Please choose interesting cases not like your recent ones. You are so much better than that. (I love Dr. Baden)
Sue Bond

ANSWER: Glad you love the show and thank you for your note. You raise an important issue that deserves a response form me. It also gives me an open door to expand the discussion. I can understand your view about the recent content of the show — child molesting is not "pretty" and neither are many of our other topics or topics any news show covers. It is hard to listen to many of the problems reported and discussed in the news.

There are very few topics in the news that are "nice" or "pretty." Even something that might seem tame like politics is not "pretty." I don't find it "pretty" to hear about Democrats and Republicans playing stupid games fighting each other while we Americans suffer from their pettiness and no progress is made in legislation to make this a better country for everyone. And yes, they both do it and it has been going on for years.

Our show topics change all the time — depending on the news and the nation's dialogue. For months during the war in Iraq, we only did segments on the war and on the military. We went "wall-to-wall" Iraq. That was also a tough diet for all of us to experience — but it was important, very important. During those shows, we had a nightly panel of generals who I believe gave you the best information and analysis of the war. They were candid — even making comments that the Pentagon might now always want to hear. They were also generals who had seen combat themselves — which is why we selected them. We wanted guests who had "been there." (This is the same formula we use for our legal panel.)

I know that our staff — like all Americans — felt great sorrow for families who were worried every night during our war coverage about loved ones. We never knew what would happen in Iraq in any given day and we still don't. We used to do more military stories in recent months than we do now and at some point I would like to go back to doing more military segments. The war remains an important topic ... a very important topic. As an aside, it is harder for us to get live reports out of Iraq since our show airs in the very early morning hours — before daybreak — in Iraq.

You think our recent shows seem like a police blotter but maybe, other than the sheer number of outrageous criminal events, this is because our staff does these topics better than anyone else. Yes, we do many segments on crime in recent time, but crime is a national crisis. Children — and adults — are getting murdered often, not seldom. We do a great job getting you information on our show because we often go to the scene, we investigate, and we get you guests who have information and real life experience. Also, I have professional experience investigating serious cases, which I hope brings value to the show and creates a dialogue on these issues of crime in our country. As a result of our team's hard work, people are watching us ... lots of people.

Incidentally, not one story we have covered has not appeared in a major newspaper — such as The Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.

If you look at all the other news shows on cable, everyone — not just us — cover the same crime and missing person topics: Michael Jackson, child molestation, the double murder in Zion, Illinois, the "Runaway Bride," Jessica Lunsford, Sarah Lunde, etc. I am somewhat "amused" when other news outlets refer to these topics as "tabloid" when they themselves cover the same topics. I have caught shows with anchors who protest to be "serious journalists" complaining about these topics, doing these topics! What are they smoking? It is amusing in that they act like 1) They are not doing these topics, 2) We don't notice and 3) That these stories are not important or worse, that these stories are irrelevant.

And you know what? These are serious topics! Child molesting (including accusations against the famous who might use stardom to lure children,) dangerous people on the street and constitutional rights, are all important issues. I am content to pound every night on the topic of child molestation until we come up with a viable solution (and I don't mean some silly legislation which just sends out paper to sex offenders to answer. I mean real solutions.)

I don't want to look the other way on this crisis — and it is a crisis — and I don't want you to look the other way either. I think we all have to face what is going on because unless we do, no effort will be made towards a solution and we will have more children victimized. I agree there is no perfect solution — but not trying to come up with improvements is a terrible thing. If we ignore the problem we won't even try any solutions. I would at least like to try.

The minute we confront our problems, get viable solutions, we will make all these stories irrelevant. When a story becomes irrelevant we stop reporting it. I welcome that moment. I am a good citizen. But until we reach that point, I am going to remind myself and you of all these new stories so that we finally do at least take steps or think about smart solutions.

As for missing persons, I think it is important to publicize any information about the missing person we can. Maybe we can "strike gold" again and another Elizabeth Smart will come home. It seems unlikely, but worth a try. Plus, who wouldn't want to be part of a successful search for a missing person?

And yes, we did do a lot about the "Runaway Bride" — the story started as a "missing person" case. Was she kidnapped, dead, hurt? Was she another Elizabeth Smart? When it turned very strange (cold feet) we could not help but "finish" the story and look for the "why." At that point we were curious, very curious ... and, from the amount of interest shown in every newspaper and news show across the country, and the viewer and reader response, it is plain that we were not the only ones curious.

E-mail No. 5

Murder, molestation, missing persons. Someone with your talents does not have to lower yourself to the level of tabloid journalism by daily covering subjects filled with such morbidity. Not only are you making FOX News look more and more like daytime tragedy TV, but you are also coarsening the fabric of our society at the same time with the morose subject of your shows. I know you can choose to do better by resisting the temptation to capitalize on the misfortunes of others for ratings and financial gain and cover stories that are more positive and upbeat.
Dave Pudlo
Lake Zurich, IL

E-mail No. 6

I am sorry but we have people who do way worse than chasing somebody with a chainsaw who get light sentences. How is chasing somebody with a chainsaw worse than chasing somebody with a gun or a knife? How is this different from a man beating the living crap out of his wife with his fists and going to "anger management" class? Would the crime had been more acceptable had he chased somebody with a plain old hacksaw? The fact is that we have violent people walking the streets every day who are dangerous and who have threatened people. One man's chainsaw is another man's hacksaw or hammer.
Cindy Sneed
Gadsden, AL

E-mail No. 7 — This viewer is referring to the murderers who are not locked up:

Hey Greta,
Thanks so much for showing those animals in the zoo! It was just what us viewers needed after enduring all those animals out there not in cages where they belong! I love Jack Hanna.

E-mail No. 8 — from Jim Hammer at the Jackson trial:

Trial Note: May 11, 2005

The big courtroom fight today happened outside the presence of the jury. It was whether the defense would be allowed to play the "outtakes" — that is the video shot by Jackson’s own videographer while Bashir was making his documentary.

In the end, the defense won and today the jury saw most of the almost three hours of Jackson talking to Bashir. Through most of it, Jackson seemed candid, real and honest and the picture that emerged was a tragic one. Jackson talked about growing up where he spent all his time working, performing in clubs at 3 a.m., along with strippers and never even having one day to play like the rest of the kids. He talked about being such a superstar that he can’t even do something as ordinary as going to the corner store to buy groceries without being mobbed and stared at. All of this left his so painfully lonely at times that he would sit in his house alone and just cry. It was painful to watch and helped explain his comfort, as he put it, with kids and animals, whom he sees as pure and unthreatening to him.

While this made Jackson seem pathetic and tragic and actually made me feel sorry for him, the question will be whether this portrait also is the portrait of a pedophile: an adult without healthy adult relationships, who turns to young boys for companionship and emotional connection and whether those friendships and "sleepovers" crossed the line into molestation. I have no idea how this will play with the jury. In the end that will help determine the outcome of this case. Stay tuned….
Jim Hammer
Santa Maria Courthouse

E-mail No. 9 — This next e-mail is from an anger management counselor. Is she angry at me and is her anger legitimate?

Dear Greta,
About your show on May 11, 05 (Jerry Hobbs): You had asked several questions and there were many comments on how anger management classes could help Jerry Hobbs after his offense with the chainsaw. I just want to say that you were a bit unfair to anger management classes. Your sarcasm towards a real solution to this man's problems was wrong. I am an anger management counselor. Why do you assume that these two girls would still be alive had he been given a longer sentence? To me you should ask would this have happened if he would have attended anger management? I cannot tell you what go through a person's mind when they finally snap in a rage such as Hobbs did. But, what I can tell you is that I have personally seen how people learn to have different outlets for their anger when they undergo therapy. It is clear to me that Hobbs should have helped himself by going to therapy, and now it is too late. We can all ask "what ifs" until the end, but those two little girls will still be gone. People should be encouraged to engage in anger management classes not discouraged through your show. You do not know what help people need. You do not know if there are other children whose lives would be safer with people getting the help they need. Please do not turn your nose up at anger management.
Corpus Christi, TX

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