Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Going To Byhalia" And What The Trip Reveals photo

So the deal is my blog doesn't just sit back and comment on news coverage. When I see relevant stories about predatory non-consent towing, like the recent story by Scott Madaus of WHBQ of Memphis, which I blogged about earlier, I try to contact the players to provide information about the larger national trend...

I did this with Orlando, Florida. I forwarded info to Commissioner Patty Sheehan consisting of a link to a report from Minneapolis about booting which seemed eerily relevant to Orlando's situation. All the time, I'm trying to stitch together the patchy local phenomenon into a bigger quilt of a revealing national trend.

Me. One little blogger guy. But I've seen it done before, even before the amazing world of blogging busted loose. All it takes is one person who gets hold of an issue and just won't let up.

Why did I pick THIS issue? Because I figured if I started a blog called Aramark Sucks Dot Com, I'd get whacked and besides...ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by tow trucks and my identity is all wrapped up in my wheels.

All over the country, there are colorful stories of abusive and predatory towing practices. Almost always, these are looked upon as LOCAL stories. Like, oh, my goodness, something awful is happening LOCALLY and it's a predatory practice, and here is what we're doing about it LOCALLY.

One problem. It's not local. It's national. Yet few see the issue as anything but local.

When Emmy Nominated Fox 13 investigative reporter Scott Madaus went to the tiny town of Byhalia, Mississippi, to track down vehicles being unlawfully snatched out of Memphis, Tennessee, and was roughed up by "Byhalia's finest," and given "no comment" by the mayor of that jerkwater town, and threatened by security at the apartment complex where vehicles were being (pretty much) ambushed...Madaus crossed a state line from Tennessee to Mississippi.

It probably didn't seem like a big deal, to cross that border. After all, people in that part of the country cross it constantly, usually giving it little thought. I'm sure Madaus thought he was on a LOCAL story, helping LOCAL people bullied by a snarling pack of bullies with tow trucks. The ugliness in Byhalia must have seemed very much like provincial, small town stupidity and therefore an intensely LOCAL phenomenon.

But what Madaus uncovered wasn't a LOCAL problem at all. The ugliness he saw in Byhalia isn't unique to Byhalia.

This investigative reporter sniffing out a LOCAL story actually unmasked the ugly face of a NATIONAL problem. The "Byhalia" story done by the Fox 13 Problem Solvers could be replicated by one local news station after another. Really, all you have to do is compare the local towing rules and regulations to what the towing operators are actually DOING.

I'll just say this much. The guy who did the story first should get the Emmy, even if some other news reporter does the story somewhere else and actually has to take a punch in the face for the greater good.

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