Rodney King died last week. His death was in all the papers. In all the news outlets. He was of course the famous victim of what has been termed “The Most Famous Beatdown in History”. The initial trial of the LAPD officers was front page in Southern California and in nearly all other publications both domestic and foreign. Coverage of the three days of rioting following the “first” verdict, was again front page news and story number one on all television news shows. There was a subsequent criminal trial and then Mr. King reportedly collected $3.8 million dollars for injuries sustained from the beating. Mr. King remained in the news due to substance abuse problems, his appearances on “Celebrity Rehab” with Dr. Drew and other miscellaneous events relating to the effect on the culture of LA, its police department and the entire zeitgeist of California and the rest of America. ”Why can’t we get along”? Mr. King’s famous quote has entered the American lexicon.
Without the video of the beating at the hands of four LA police officers, it is very likely that there would have been no rioting causing millions in damage, no changes in LAPD procedures and that no one save Rodney’s friends, would have ever heard of the incident. 53 people died in the in those riots. But without that video, Exhibit A…. likely nary a blip on anyone’s radar. The video was everything. No video, nada.
With the video, history was made and a culture changed. The video was shown a gazillion times again last week. The person who captured the video, George Holliday got….. wait for it….nothing. Not a penny, not a farthing. He did get a handshake from Rodney King years later in a chance meeting in a parking lot, according to an article by writer Juan Gonzalez in the New Your Daily News. Holliday knew “he had something” and dropped it off at a TV station. The next day it went viral in a pre-Internet world. Every TV station in this country and in many other countries ran the video, making Holliday the first citizen journalist in the digital age and/or the most famous. That video made news editors realize that anyone with a camcorder or camera could provide important footage and thus construction of that slippery slope of people providing free content commenced. If Mr. Holliday knew enough to register, license and market his video, rather than give it away to profit making companies who made money on his film, he could have reaped substantial financial rewards and/or given any or all of such monies to charities of his choosing. The video has been shown continuously from 1991 up through today – 21 years. It will likely be shown long after we are all gone.
Mr. Gonzalez reports that Mr. Holliday, today is living in tough economic circumstances. Even the video camera used in the filming by him was lost in his divorce long ago. Mr. Gonzalez cleverly and accurately wrote that, “Mr. Holliday Got Beat Too”. The media however, did not get beat. Airtime was sold for commercials and publications sold space for ads and charged accordingly. Circulation and viewership rose with the intensity of the story. There were few if any literate adults who did not see at least portions of the video numerous times. TV talk shows used it as source material more times than anyone can count. Profits were made by everyone except Mr. Holliday. His video could have been used in any criminal or civil case to expedite justice and help make any social point of Mr. Holliday’s choosing. The media profited wildly, Mr. Holliday did not because for no valid reason he gave it away so others could profit. We have many similar anecdotes and Ed has several cases to prove it.
Think about that next time you watch your local news show and see those storm photos, or cute puppy photos provided by Jimmy or Judy or Jose. They always tell you the first name, but that’s all you get. Your first name mentioned. The station gets free content that they don’t have to pay for. Photojournalists are almost extinct and the submission of free content hastens their demise. Do yourself a favor, don’t be Jimmy or Judy or Jose. Let the stations get their own content. And if you do capture something on video or on stills that is a major story, hire someone knowledge to negotiate with the news syndicators. You’d be amazed at what they pay for a video or photo.
Don’t be the next George Holliday, who apparently could have well used the money that stayed in the pockets of CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, The NY Times etc. adinfinitum.