WAFF48 News Creates A Star

Information vs. Infotainment: Kelly Dodson’s attempted rape makes her brother, Antoine Dodson, famous.

By Maymuna Abdi, Staff Writer

Antoine Dodson was not an upcoming movie star, musician, or an artist. The twenty-two-year-old was studying business at a local college, and living in the projects, until the attempted rape of his sister and the subsequent interview with WAFF48 News made him an overnight internet sensation.

Kelly Dodson is the young woman, who was attacked and nearly raped, while her baby daughter was in the room with her. According to WAFF48 News, Kelly Dodson struggled with her attacker, knocking over items in her bedroom. Between the noise and her screams, her brother, Antoine Dodson, ran to help her. Though the attacker escaped, the mother and daughter were unharmed.

The viewers could interpret this story in many ways. This could be the story of a brother protecting the honor of his sister. It could be about the child’s presence in a crime scene or the survival of a horrendous crime or the danger of living in the projects.

Instead, it became a mockery, a stereotype, and a source of infotainment. WAFF48 News shows footage of Antoine Dodson rambling, ranting and making exaggerated threats, as well as using street vernacular. Although he’s passionate, his interview contributes nothing to the story, but does a fine job of painting Lincoln Park residents as mere caricatures.

Antoine Dodson rambles:
Obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park. He’s climbin’ in your windows, he’s snatchin’ your people up, tryna rape ‘em so y’all need to, hide your kids, hide your wives, and hide your husband because they raping everybody out here.

As essential as news is to society today, there is so much of it. Journalists have the daunting job of deciding what is essential and what people need to know. The spaces of the newspaper are divided to the last grid between advertisement and news. Television news is the same.

Why show Antoine Dodson’s interview at all? This question might be met with a bellow of chants vouching for free speech and free press.

Elizabeth Gentle of WAFF48 said, “Some have contacted our news room saying that interviews with people like Antoine reflects poorly on the community. I say censoring people like Antoine is far worse.”

Of the five Ws and H that make up journalism, how many of these questions does Dodson answer? He barely answers the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of the story. Would it be more informative to further interview the sister, who is the actual victim? Why not interview the crime scene investigator? Why waste most of the time and footage on Antoine Dodson’s ramble?

Journalism has a financial aspect to it. It is gullible and wrong to say journalism is purely about democracy. Sure the Western society needs and thrives on information that journalists provide. Journalism is also a business and, in that sense, money is paramount.

Infotainment is also known as a yellow journalism – a term that came about in 1895. Yellow journalism stories in newspapers were designed to produce a strong reaction from readers. They were intended to shock, excite, and entertain. This was a huge change from the more serious news.

Although infotainment does not provide the responsible information that people need, it does attract viewers.
The Dodson story became an instant internet sensation. In fact, it was the number one watched video on WAFF.com and YouTube for some time. In all likelihood, WAFF48 benefited greatly because people were visiting their website for the video.

Antoine Dodson has become quite famous after that interview. He has a Facebook fan page, t-shirt line, and ringtone. His interview was turned into a rap song by The Gregory Brothers. The song, named Bed Intruder, sold thousands of copies on iTunes and appeared on Billboard Hot 100 list.

What is at stake with such yellow journalism? Do people know about it? Do they care?

Many claim journalism is entirely for public interest. Journalists, in this sense, should be transparent and neutral observers as they take on the role of society’s watch dog. Once this ideal is lost, both democracy and social security is lost.

One of the biggest issues with journalism today is the discrepancy over what people want vs. what they need. Do people want entertainment? Do they need news? Is infotainment needed to close the gap?
Information is an essential part of the 21st century. People need it almost like they need enough oxygen. Viewers also crave entertainment in any form. Why else would the Dodson story get as much attention? His actions, words, and attitude were hilarious, so people watched and got a good laugh.

Had the story been a hard news piece about the danger of the projects and a close call on a dangerous crime, it probably would not have received as much attention. This story would be more journalistically relevant even if only half the people watched it, but took it seriously.

It is imperative to remember the basic goal of the press: to inform and educate the public. Of course, ours is not an ideal press. The news realm is business and in order to make money, they need viewers. News now competes not only with fictional shows and movies, but reality and talk shows as well. But, when a story about attempted rape turns into entertainment, there is something fundamentally wrong happening.

ARB Team
Arbitrage Magazine
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