On a busy day, the article about the New York Surveillance Camera Players' weekly walking tours of heavily surveilled neighborhoods in Manhattan, which was posted to the Associated Press news wire on the morning of Thursday 25 July 2002, would have been ignored. The local TV news stations, which use the AP wire service not for finished stories, but as a source for "new" story ideas, wouldn't have followed up on it. But Thursday 25 July 2002 must have been a very slow day, because not one but two local TV stations contacted the SCP-New York, both asking for an interview and a brief walking tour of a heavily surveilled neighborhood. Later that same day, Bill Brown gave back-to-back interviews and tours in Times Square with Channel 5, the local Fox affiliate, and then Channel 7, the local affiliate of ABC-TV. (Channel 7 also attended the combination performance-and-walking-tour that was offered by the SCP-New York on 28 July 2002.) The Fox 5 piece aired on 25 July 2002, while the Channel 7 piece aired a week later, on Friday 2 August 2002, which must have been another slow day for news.
Two minutes long, the segment aired by Channel 7 was much better than the one rushed on to the air by Fox 5. Unlike its predecessor, the Channel 7 piece wasn't technologically "flashy" (there were no live broadcasts and no "eye-catching" graphics), nor was it filled with dumb mistakes (there were no lame attempts to include "interesting" or "little known" factoids). The tone through-out was respectful, there were no cheap jokes about paranoia, and Brown -- once again the uncredited source of all the information relayed -- was actually allowed more than a sound-bite or two. The piece also included a pair of thoughtful sound-bites from young women who were opposed to the cameras' existence, and a few comments from a pro-surveillance person that were so inarticulate that they made his position sound like the nonsense it really was.
There are always "little" things to complain about, of course. Unlike Fox 5, Channel 7 didn't refer people who were interested in taking one of the walking tours to the SCP-New York, its website or its voicemail line, but to Channel 7's own website. And, sure enough, when you finally get to the relevant page, there is no information on up-coming tours, just a shortened version of the article that ran in the Associated Press.
Worse, the Channel 7 piece described Bill Brown as a "crusader," "a one-man movement against surveillance cameras." But this is false: the SCP-New York is not a one-man operation, and Channel 7 knows it because its crew taped the SCP-New York's most recent performance, at which Brown was just one of four performers. Perhaps it is for this reason that clips of the performance were not included in Channel 7's report: they would have undermined the cliche romantic myth that Channel 7 wants to perpetuate, you know, the solitary individual who "struggles" against the "ignorance" of "the masses," blah blah blah.
Contact the NY Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998