What to do about the new 6th Street Bridge in Los Angeles? Almost from the moment it opened the bridge has attracted consternation, conflict and controversy leading to the LAPD shutting it down on multiple occasions.
The first problem I recall reading about, was the muscle car people “taking over” the bridge to do donuts, spinning around in circles with their cars. After that, people started doing all kinds of goofy things on the bridge, like a barber cutting some guys hair out in the middle of traffic. And then it hit me. It’s not the bridge that’s attracting all the attention, it’s video of what people are doing on the bridge that gets posted on social media. The 6th Street bridge, has apparently become the biggest “Look at me!” social media site in Southern California? Please understand that I’m not there, so I’m just guessing based upon news coverage. And a little history.
Some years ago, way before O.J. and his famous “slow speed chase,” police pursuits were a new thing for Los Angeles television. It started at some point when someone noticed that helicopter coverage of a police pursuit pulled in an audience. After that another station did it and then another and another, until eventually we had a half-dozen or more choppers up, chasing a police pursuit regardless of the reason for it or the speed involved. Some guy could have been driving an old tractor down Ventura Boulevard at three miles per hour. If the police were in pursuit then by god, we’d all be there with our choppers overhead providing live tv coverage for an audience that loved it. We knew they loved it because they were watching in record numbers.
A couple of the stations decided to stop covering pursuits because they had no news value whatsoever and their ratings crashed. That’s how we knew. But back to the 6th Street bridge.
It was during one of those early pursuits that something really strange happened that led to me having an epiphany. There we were, chasing the police who were chasing a suspect – our helicopter was overhead and my cameraman and I were in our truck on the ground – when the strangest thing happened. Crowds began gathering in advance of our arrival. That is to say, people were running out into the street to cheer and jeer before the parade passed by because they wanted to be on television. We, had become the cause of all those people gathering out in the street. They were watching the pursuit on tv, and then running outside when they saw it was headed their way because they wanted to get their faces on the tube.
Instead of providing coverage of an event, we were the event, or at least one part of it and making it bigger than it would have been had we not been there. You could say we were adding to the problem instead of just providing coverage.
Could the same thing be happening with the 6th Street bridge? You can bet video of the barber who was cutting hair out in the middle of traffic ended up on social media. If you look carefully, you can see someone holding up a smart phone to record or maybe provide a live feed of the whole hair cutting adventure.
I suppose it’s a case of “everything old is new again” or in this case, maybe it’s “news again?” But this time you can’t blame the news media. This time it appears to be just a bunch of goofballs with smartphones showing off.