Guide to Fish Rap Clips
Animal Research Part I These articles are part of a dramatically scaled-down series produced for a class in Investigative Reporting. The result of a three-month investigation that took me from federal regulatory agencies to animal rights activists around the country, the results may be a bit bland, but the information had never been released or easily available until this article ran.
Animal research at UCSC turned out to be a much hotter-button issue than I had suspected. The campus waged a personal war against me that taxed my endurance to the limit, broke freedom of information laws in attempts to disrupt my research, and launched a police investigation into my activities. These ill-fated maneuvers served only to strengthen my resolve and embarrass the scientists involved.
After the articles ran in print, the campus veterinarian thanked me for my fair and accurate reporting, promised to help with information and sources in the future, and actually got teary-eyed with remorse at how he and his colleagues had acted.
As an L.A. native, I was enthralled when riots broke out after a Simi Valley jury declared the officers who beat Rodney King to be innocent, and went down with a team of reporters to cover the incident. The scene described near the end of the story, where a Crip and a Blood hug each other, predated any other such reports in national media by at least two weeks. I later produced a follow-up story on the gang truce for another class in Investigative Reporting that examined such issues as government-sponsored sabotage and the brokerage of the agreement by Community Youth Gang Services.
Santa Cruz was never big enough to get any real presidential hopefuls, but the arrival of California's former "Governor Moonbeam" caused great excitement around campus. This is the story of how his organization wrested control of student political organizations for his own nefarious ends, violating the State Constitution and University policies in the process. I was amazed at the quotes I got - the student politicians weren't thinking on their toes that day with quotes like Smith's "It appears that we did the wrong thing, but I prefer not to get so technical. Sure, it's a little fuzzy, but hell, what isn't?"
I had been working with the Chancellor Pister for about 6 months as a member of the Chancellor's Advisory Board. While he appreciated my position on the Board, he maintained a healthy disrespect for the Fish Rap, which had a flair for reporting information officials didn't want in public view. To be fair, his reasons were also personal - we had run a series of ill-conceived digs on his wife.
After two months of almost daily phone calls, letters, and the forging of a strong relationship with the university's Director of Public Relations, I finally got an interview. The PR Director sat in with a tape recorder as an observer, but agreed not to advise the Chancellor on answers. Meanwhile, Kurt Opsahl went to Berkeley to interview Pister's former co-workers to further flush out the story.
The story was a little fluffy, but the poor guy needed a break from blind anti-authority sentiment. Not evil as many activists had portrayed him, Pister in many ways shared their views and vision of the campus.
I guess the Vice Chancellor for Student Services was having a bad week or something. But when sources filtered word to me that he was plotting against our paper, I moved fast. When I walked into his office and turned the tape recorder on, I was expecting tactful evasion of the subject. What I got instead was Moore signing his own death warrant and handing it to me. It's rare when someone hands you their head on a silver platter, even when you're in your best interviewing form and I was, as they say, stoked...
This article made some serious waves at UCSC. Getting the information was difficult, from securing tape of that evening's radio traffic to interviewing some students who wanted the trouble to just be over with, I fought a constant battle for the facts. In the end, though, the facts spoke for themselves - the guard in question was demoted to Parking Control Officer and became one of the few people featured in my articles to never speak with me again. Policies regarding police intervention in residential areas were strengthened - after the story ran, advance notice was required before police would show up.
I had heard they were called Exalted Rulers, which to me sounded even cooler than Grand Poobah, and dammit, I was going to find out what made the guy tick.