The "Gang Sign" That Kicked Off #Pointergate

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

Brace yourself for this week's most eye-roll-inducing reporting ever: ABC network affiliate KSTP accused Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges of flashing a "gang sign" while she posed for a photo with Navell Gordon, a young black man who volunteered to canvass for a charity event, under the Thursday headline "Mpls. Mayor Flashes Gang Sign with Convicted Felon; Law Enforcement Outraged."

The local news outlet called Gordon "a twice-convicted felon for drug selling and possession and illegal possession of a firearm" — and literally nothing else. KSTP, who broadcasts under 5 Eyewitness News, offered absolutely no context for the picture — which, by the way, was taken while Gordon was out helping the charity Neighborhoods Organizing for Change for a get-out-the-vote campaign a week before Election Day.

In a video posted on the charity's YouTube page that shadows Gordon and a friend as they go about canvassing, Gordon said:

We want you to get out and vote. Get more people in your community involved... I made some mistakes in life, you know, I can't vote, I'm not ashamed to say that. But I'm working on fixing that right now so I can be able to vote for my next president.
We've got to step outside the box and show the younger generation and set an example for the kids. You've got to think about the future.

The deliberate misrepresentation of Gordon's character and the ignorance in calling Mayor Hodges' finger pose a "gang sign" mean that the most imbecilic reporting of the week goes to the reporters at KSTP. When contacted by the ABC affiliate about Gordon and the photo, Mayor Hodges' spokesperson said that she was merely "pointing at him," but the mayor herself declined multiple interview requests.

The report then goes on to quote Michael Quinn, a retired Minneapolis police officer and former manager of the department's Internal Affairs Unit, who expressed his "disappointment" in the photo, "because it puts police officers at risk." 5 Eyewitness News also said Quinn claimed the photo created a safety problem for every officer in every gang unit in the Metro. The retired officer also had strong opinions about Mayor Hodges' "pointing" response:

She can't be that naive. I cannot imagine. She is legitimizing these people. She is legitimizing gangs who are killing our children in Minneapolis and I just can't believe it. It hurts.

It hurts him, he said.

Obviously, the good fellows on social media weren't going to let KSTP or the reporter Jay Kolls get away with such idiocy. #pointergate has been the number one Twitter trend since Daily Kos called out KSTP, and people are reacting as sane members of any civilized society would: with outrage...

... And humor.

To make things more bizarre, it turns out Koll was bombarded by fuming Twitter users on Thursday night, and it seems he responded to a lot of them:

And on Friday, KSTP released a statement about the #pointergate blowup, which really explained nothing except further highlight their incomprehension. You can almost hear them collectively thinking "what's the big deal?":

"It's a story you'll see only on 5," quipped the 5 Eyewitness News anchorman — the only statement the news outlet has made about the story that I am in full agreement with, because the state of journalism hasn't degraded so much that any other news agency would be daft enough to call this "reporting."

Images: Neighborhoods Organizing For Change/Youtube (screenshot)