Decoding Philly Media: How Four Local Websites Covered the Same Story

When Brian Goldman and his cabbie were attacked at 15th and Chestnut, Philly's blogs had disturbingly different views on the news.

By now, you know the story. Let us briefly review.

A Penn kid, name of Brian Goldman, is in a cab at 15th and Chestnut. Three card-carrying members of our city’s soulless teenage population—our tragic version of the Walking Dead—are standing on the corner. One of the teenage zombies throws his fist through the cab’s open window and nails Goldman on the jaw.

Goldman and the cabbie get out of the car. Goldman gets slugged again.

The cabbie, meanwhile, gets cold cocked by one of the zombies and beat on by another for good measure. Goldman scrambles to his feet and takes off. The cabbie struggles to his car and hightails it.

Given the details, not surprisingly, the incident blew up big.

To review the details: Goldman and the cabbie were white; the zombies black. The zombies allegedly spit out racial epithets at Goldman and the cabbie throughout the pummeling. The attack conjured up for some the visage of flash mobs past. The most explosive detail of all, not surprisingly, is where the attack took place: 15th and Chestnut.

    Now let’s look at how this disturbing incident was handled by some of our friends in the media. (in the guise of Stephanie Farr of the Daily News) reported the story under the headline: “THUGS ATTACK CABBIE, PASSENGER.” The story described the incident as “horrific,” which it was, and identified the attackers as “black” and the victims as “white,” true and true. Thugs? Okay, that works. Best of all, the comment section was (mercifully) turned off for the story. (Grade: A)

    Next up, Philly Clout, the Daily News political blog. The Clout posted a statement by Jimmie Moore, a former Philadelphia judge running for Congress against Bob Brady (and good luck with that). Moore reacted to the cab incident by calling for the deployment of the National Guard to help the cops damp down violence in the city (“We must not be a silent party to this culture of crime”). The statement ran for four breathless paragraphs. Should it have been posted on Philly Clout? Sure, why the hell not? Moore’s call for the National Guard to invade the city is wack-a-do, but everyone covers Newt’s notion of colonizing the moon. The problem was not with the posting of Moore’s statement; it came when the rabble that makes up the set were permitted to weigh in:

    “Da brothas! Da Sistahs!” wrote rubbermaid.

    “The National Guard is not going to change the culture of these people,” pennedLibertyBellsPalsy.

    “LOL…Where is Al Sharpton?….where is Jesse Jackson?….Where is Spike Lee?….Where is Dr. Dre?….Where is Jim Brown?….Where is Barack Obama?….LMAO….Let the culture destroy itself….if the AA community does not respect itself and life, let em rot in hell….” burped a commenter called (believe it or not) “most_of_the_commentors_here_are_losers.”

    Perusing the comments make you feel dirty. Like you’re attending a cyberspace meeting of the Klan. What is the comments policy at Anyone? (Grade: Philly Clout: Eh. commenters: F.)

    The Philly Post linked to the original story beneath this dandy of a headline: “THREE BLACK TEENS ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING WHITE CABBIE AND PASSENGER IN CENTER CITY.” They promoted the story elsewhere on the site with this: “BLACK-ON-WHITE HATE CRIME IN CENTER CITY.” The ill-considered black/white emphasis was disturbing, and surprising, too, given that the editors of this site have been admirably vigilant about maintaining reader comment quality. Urgh, what’s the deal, guys? (Grade: D)

    Finally, as it turns out, Brian Goldman, the Penn kid who weathered the assault, is a columnist for the Daily Pennsylvanian, the university’s newspaper.

    Goldman wrote about the ordeal for his column and somehow managed to tell the whole story without ever mentioning that his attackers were black. Nor did he mention that the attackers were allegedly shouting racial epithets as they threw their haymakers. This could be viewed as admirable, I suppose, if Goldman had decided  it unwise to make a racial issue of the incident. But a columnist’s job is to be visceral, and Goldman’s words sure didn’t convey that. How did the whole ordeal make you feel? The kid’s in college, so judge ye not harshly. (Grade: C)

    Nothing stirs the shit more than black-on-white crime in the heart of Center City. It gets everybody going.

    But day-to-day, it’s the black community that suffers most at the hands of the black soulless zombies, just as it’s the white community that bears the pain that comes with having to deal with the stringy-haired methheads that eat their neighborhoods alive from the inside out.

    We keep that in mind, and the words will never hurt us.