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Thursday, January 20, 2011

BP Diaz 'Digusted' by American Idol

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., is firing off against last night's episode of "American Idol," where one contender, a 16-year-old boy named Travis Orlando, took camera crews on a tour of the Bronx neighborhood where he grew up.

"You have robberies, you have killings, anything you can possibly imagine, it goes on here," Orlando said of the shelter where he lived with his family, which appears to be on the Grand Concourse. The video, complete with a dramatic musical montage, shows shots of liter on the street and ambulances whirring by, sirens blazing. You can watch the whole thing above, including Orlando's audition (he sings the Beatles song "Eleanor Rigby.")

In a statement sent out this morning, Diaz said he's "disgusted" with the show's treatment of the borough.

"Rather than focus on the amazing revitalization the Bronx has seen over the past three decades, the producers of the show chose instead to highlight the negative stereotypes that have plagued our borough for years," he said. "The portrayal of the Bronx by the producers of American Idol in such an extremely negative light is not only shameful, it does not accurately represent how far the Bronx has come."

What do you all think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.


  1. Nothing Travis said or the camera crews shot was false. If the Borough President doesn't like to see and hear the truth, he should use his position and power to change the Bronx. Sugar coating crime and trash and poverty will not make it go away. Hard work and honest politicians can at least make a dent.

  2. If we want to change the way our great borough is perceived by others we need to change our own approach to our Bronx. We have the resources to create and implement both a long term and short term plan for re-branding. But before anything can happen we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and rethink why we are where we are.

  3. This young man was simply showing his reality. His family is an a bad shelter system because his father lost his job. LOST JOBS. The Bronx Borough President needs to focus on bringing Jobs into the Bronx to get people out of the shelter system and not worry about what a short segment of some overrated show. He will not change the perception of what people across this nation already have of the Bronx by a press release.

  4. Was Jenny on the block?

  5. If this kid was in the shelter system, it is likely that he came from another borough and was placed in the Bronx (especially if his family 'gave up' their home).

    Also, I think people are overreacting to the media clip. There was nothing that was exaggerated or 'offensive'. As Adi says above, we have to change our own approach to the Bronx if we want something better.

    Good luck to Travis.

  6. Producers have many choices when they edit and it's clear they went out of their way to portray the Bronx negatively for maxiumum dramatic affect. It wasn't necessary to handle it that way. I wonder how complicit the young man and his family were in the outcome.... did they say anything positive that the producers chose not to use (like talk about where and how he learned to sing?)... or did they simply dump on the Bronx, too?

  7. Let me just embellish what i just wrote ... they could have a just-as-dramatic and emotional a piece, for example, had they showed the young man singing or practicing singing in his difficult surroundings. They could still tell the story of his difficult background - in all it's detial - but explain how it's possible for a young man to rise out of that difficulty and hone his talent. That would have been a more informative and responsible piece. But, as i said above, they had some choices to make and they reached for a lower-end, rather than higher-end and more informative result. The way they did it, the viewer gets no understanding as to how it's possible for this youngster to develop the way he did. Regardless of how Bronxites feel about it, it's not a real good piece from a technical point of view.

  8. I think if we really look at our borough we will see that unfortunately there are many stories like this. There are many families in distressed and facing tough realities. Our Governor and Mayor talks about cutting services, this will affect families like the aforementioned. Our Borough President should work on fixing the many issues affecting our lives instead of ignoring them.

  9. listen...i live in the bronx and this borough president hasn't done shit. i have been in the bronx for years and don't recommend anyone to move here. there are shootings, robberies, gang violence and police deptartment that can use new officers to protect victims and investigate actual crimes. i am sick and tired of "officials" thinking that we as residents of the bronx owe them a "kiss my ass on camera" speech. i believe we don't need to hide what we go through. yeah there are areas were the streets my look better but doesn't mean they are safer. where school are getting better funded then the public school the bad areas get. like p.s. 85x. Travis lived a rough ife and so have i and my other Bronx residents. we only have our voices and we will not shut them up for Mr. Diaz's benefit. let them know he ain't dong a damn thing. sincerely,
    A real Bronx Site

    p.s. travis whip that ass in American Idol

  10. To those maligning the beep and politicos for not making the Bronx better, what have YOU done to improve the Bronx? Have you expressed your needs and concerns to the politicians you are so quick to bash? If so and they have not responded, then shame on them. But if not, and you reserve your outrage for a response to an American Idol clip, shame on you.

  11. Unfortunately, what was portrayed by this kid is 100% true. Living in the Bronx all my life, I can honestly say I am one of few examples of kids who managed to steer clear of all the bad things as I came from a positive familial environment. First generation college graduate from an immigrant Dominican family, I went to a horrible public high school (recently shuttered,) I then attended a private college in upstate new york on a scholarship, and am now at an ivy league institution completing my masters degree on a fellowship.

    My family still lives in the Bronx as do I with them when on my breaks, but the borough dissapoint's me honestly. Once I graduate and get settled with a good job, I am moving out the Bronx. The people, the disrespect for themselves and where they live, the gangs, drugs, and just general hopelessness. I never hang out at night in the Bronx because I want to avoid the unnecessary trouble that can occur, I go hang out downtown and spend the night with a friend and then come back the next day to the Bronx. When my friends (college,etc) ask me where I am from I am embarrassed sometimes to say I am from the Bronx, so I say I live next to Yankee stadium and people say oh you are so lucky. I do that cause I dont want people on my case saying oh my god, did you dodge gunshots,etc? It has happened, sad but true!

    There aren't many good things about the Bronx, the few I can honestly say are the culture of the people, the Yankees, Bronx Zoo, and Target.

    People need to stop complaining and take their future into their own hands, get an education, take care of your family, set a positive example for your kids, instead of memorizing the latest rap lyrics learn some math!!!

    The honest fact is that even if jobs come to the Bronx, 90% of the positions that provide livable wages majority of residents are grossly under-qualified. People complain about the armory and livable wages, you can only pay a stock person or a cashier so much before its not even worth opening a business.

    I apologize if this comes off as a scathing attack on the Bronx. The borough and my experiences made me the man I am today. But somebody has to say the truth and better its a resident of the place than somebody else.

  12. I agree, Diaz HAS NOT DONE ANYTHING a BP and his comment about this just his way to get his face and name in the papers. If he was really concerned about the reputation of the Bronx he would have been doing something about low life thieves like Pedro Espada and what HIS shenanigans are doing for our image. The fact of the matter is more kids live in poverty in our borough than anywhere else. If anything, showing one resilient kid minimizes the tremendous failure the gvt has been for Bronx children. We can't all sing our way out of the shelters.

  13. The show is clearly racist? What they do the same thing for a podunk white hillbilly? Would they do a montage of meth labs and muscle cars up on cinder blocks?

  14. This is Mark Rodriguez, former assembly candidate and I am amazed by the comments. I am happy to see the anger and frustration vented by so many because it sends a message to those repeatedly elected officials that nothing has been and will continue to sugarcoat and ignore the real issues affecting us in The Bronx. As an accountant and Family Court victim I live everyday among those suffering due to unemployment and a corrupt legal system. Maybe I'll run again in 2012. And by then, maybe Jennifer "I've Been Through The Block" Lopez may have contributed something positive like a youth center to her old neighborhood.

  15. GAX needs to inform himself before making silly statements. It seems unprofessional and unethical for him to put down somebody else's work when he clearly hasn't bothered to watch it.

    Just read what he wrote:

    "Let me just embellish what i just wrote ... they could have a just-as-dramatic and emotional a piece, for example, had they showed the young man singing or practicing singing in his difficult surroundings"

    He must be embellishing! He obviously didn't bother to watch the show. He couldn't have. If he had, he would know that they showed the young man singing or practicing singing in his difficult surroundings. (See 1:27 - 1:37!)

    How does somebody who so obviously embellishes on the facts get nominated as "Bronxite of the Year" to go lecture others on "informative and responsible" stories?

    Perhaps part of our problem in this borough is the state of our journalism.

  16. I most certainly watched the piece! At 1:32 of the video they showed about :02 seconds of him standing in an alley way snapping his fingers. It's something that they clearly staged... and over-produced with VO of his pre-recorded singing. That's hardly what I was suggesting would have improved the piece. They needed to give the viewer a way to make a connection between HOW the young man went from difficult surroundings to having such a lovely voice. Did he ever take lessons? Was he inspired by his family? Was there someone in school? Did he learn it from someone in a shelter? There is no information in the piece to help the viewer REALLY understand what's going on here, about his surroundings or how he has emerged from them. And had they done so, they could have showed an aspect that is part of life in the Bronx that would have given the difficult surroundings that are as much a part of the Bronx as anything else. Jennifer Lopez is a living example of that as is the legacy of music that defines the culture of the borough.

    As far as the state of journalism in the Bronx, I often bemoan the overall quality of it, too, so I agree with the sentiment. Having said that, I stand by my work to the enth degree and if there's anything on any of my programs that you think leaves something to be desired for any reason, I expressly make it clear that the phones are open most all the time for viewers to have their say and my email address is also presented twice on each show, which i personally open and respond to.

    But as far as ethics, personal potshots from those who cloak themselves as "Anonymous" are not helping improve the media landscape in the Bronx either. My name is on my work and on my blog postings. But yours is not. That speaks volumes, especially when your charge has no merit.

  17. Anonymity is the devil! If I knew who you were I could attach you personally rather than spend time responding to your position. Fucking cowards.

  18. Professional ethics are most certainly an issue when a Journalis attacks the work of others, without discussing them honestly.

    Mr. Axelbank's attack statement was factually incorrect, as quoted above. Does he deny it? No. Because he cannot. His statement was wrong, and it cannot be disavowed.

    Instead, he tries to parse words. He readily criticizes others, but gets snippy when he is questioned himself? There was no "potshot," but rather an honest assessment of your attacks on the work of others. Are you unwilling to subject your own comments to the same scrutiny you impose on the work of your professional colleagues?

    And let's be clear, Mr. Axelbank. There is a big difference between a comment on the quality of journalism by a neighborhood resident, and a comment by a Journalist. Are you really going to claim you do not have to adhere to any higher ethical standard, as a Journalist?

    If you are going to claim you shouldn't be held to a little higher standard, you should decide to stop calling yourself a journalist!

  19. P.S. Gary...

    I counted a 10 second segment. Why can't you tell the truth?

  20. Um... doesn't this boil down to how you want to tell the story?

    As far as I can tell, GAX is upset they didn't tell the story he wanted them to tell. That might be ok, but I think their job is to tell the story the way the kid wanted to tell it.

    There's nothing here anywhere to suggest that isn't exactly what they did. I don't see how anybody can complain about the way they told this kid's story, unless they've heard from the kid that they didn't tell it the way he wanted.

  21. @ anonymous, I totally agree with what you said.
    I live in the bronx and Polititians are here expecially in my area of the west farms section haven't done anything to improve our neighborhood. Sure the Bronx has come a long way from the sixties & seventy but look at all they talk and no action. I think that american idol didn't do anything wrong. My vote goes for this Kid Travis Orlando. If Ruben Diaz Jr doesn't like it then come to my neighborhood in the WEST FARMS SQ. Builings and i will personally show you the drug dealers and prostitution. Talk is CHEAP!!

  22. Back to arguing about posting anonymously again? Yawn.

    It seems like I've seen this from GAX in the Bronx before. It seems like he wants to have it both ways.

    1) Use the authority of his show as a substitute for articulating a well-supported position.

    2) Divert attention to an attack on anonymity, rather than address the actual positions raised.

    From what I've seen here, GAX in the Bronx made himself fair game for discussion. He could have made a coherent argument about the producers by posting anonymously, which would limit discussion to the substance of his position. By posting as GAX in the Bronx, he invokes the authority of his show. If he's going to invoke his authority, he should be prepared to have it challenged.

    Especially when he seems to have trouble standing behind his statements.

    Can we finally be done with the nonsense about posting anonymously?

    GAX in the Bronx, can you actually explain why you believe the producers had some obligation to help viewers understand how the Bronx somehow helped Travis Orlando? Reading the comments here, you'll find that many others believe the Bronx set him back. It almost sounds like you want the producers to play down the challenges of his environment, and ignore his own hard work, to make it sound like he owes his talent to a neighborhood that did him few favors. How do you support that position? Explain, please.

  23. I don't think they had any obligation to help viewers understand how the Bronx helped Travis Orlando. i never said that and that would be going to far.

    As I did say before, they could have done a better job of explaining the connection between how this young man - like so many others, maybe even including the incredibly talented woman right in front of him - emerges from the most disgusting urban place imaginable and has enormous talent and promise and whatever else. There are reasons for it, maybe many of them are that the young man is unexplainably talented, but the producers didn't make any attempt at addressing any of them. Had they done so, it would have been a more informative and balanced piece. That was the point I was making. Either i didn't explain it well or people have other agendas, but that was my original point.

    Also, if one of the anonymous' thinks that i didn't support my position well, he's certainly entitled to that opinion. I think i did. He thinks I didn't. To me, that what makes it worthwhile to have dialogue? You may not agree, but u learn.

    though I do gotta say with all due respect, the anonymous who suggested that maybe it was Travis who called some shots, that person really doesn't understand how the process works.

    Anyway, there's was a lot written... I'll try to address as much as i can...

    First of all, yes, technically, there was :02 (maybe less) of him singing in an alley in the Bronx. So on that point, certainly to the letter of what i said, I was not correct and have no problem admitting it.

    But as above, I contend that neither that :02 nor the VO segment that one poster referred to are not what i was concerned about in the piece.

    There was also this idea that i'm substituting my tv show for something, or that i'm somehow hiding behind this personae or that personae. When I comment on Bronx blogs I like to do so as the host of the show (of which i am quite proud). It's a show about the Bronx and on it we talk honestly and openly about the Bronx, and so when i offer comments here, i view it as an extension of show. I'm not sure what the problem is with that. i'm not hiding behind it. It is what it is. I have the show, I work hard on it and so yes, these comments are my implicit extension of it. There is other social media where i open up my personal life a little more. So?

    As for one of the anonymous statements that i'm afraid to hold my words up to scrutiny, I really can't figure that one out. it's clear who i am and that person insists on being anonymous. And it's ME who won't stand up to scrutiny? yow, i'm really not following that.

    As for the other (or the same) anonymous, believe me, most of the time I really don't care about the anonymous thing and have had specific discussions about that with the people who manage this blog about it. i certainly wasn't using the notion to distract anyone from any issue, but when i get kinda called out that i can't take it, that i'm hiding behind my tv show (which is really funny when u think about it), and the numerous other things that were said here, then it does bother me that they do it anonymously. But in theory, truthfully, i'm not real big on it.

    I am much happier talking about this American Idol piece, people's reaction to it, and critiquing of how it was produced and how it might have been improved.

    Hope everyone has a good night.

  24. First, American Idol is an entertainment show. It's not journalism. They created an uplifting piece that showed a young man lifting himself from difficult conditions. It hit the emotional mark with the audience. As almost everybody but Mr. Axelbank and Mr. Diaz recognize, they didn't say anything that wasn't true.

    If Mr. Axelbank wants to attack that on so-called "technical" terms, he should start by honestly recognizing the appropriate genre of the work. Mr. Axelbank should know American Idol isn't a documentary, and criticizing it on Mr. Axelbank's personal preference for a documentary approach sure doesn't seem like an honest "technical" critique of an entertainment show.

    Worse, it seems Mr. Axelbank wants to substitute his own agenda for the purpose of the show and Travis's story. He's continuing to embellish on the facts to do it too. Take this statement:

    "though I do gotta say with all due respect, the anonymous who suggested that maybe it was Travis who called some shots, that person really doesn't understand how the process works."

    With all due respect, where has Mr. Axelbank seen the least shred of evidence to suggest they did not present the story Travis brought them accurately? I don't want to see Mr. Axelbank try to wiggle out by saying that the producers chose the angles and edited the video, so they're technically calling the shots. It was clear Mr. Axelbank was asserting American Idol did not accurately represent this young singer's life experience, as described to them.

    There is no evidence at all supporting that position by Mr. Axelbank. Mr. Axelbank essentially chooses to put words in Travis's mouth, by deciding all on his own that the story is supposed to be something different. Yet he claims we shouldn't ask any questions about journalistic ethics? Huh?

    With all due respect, Mr. Axelbank is making up his own story, and trying once again to refer to his experience working in media to get people to believe it. That's right, you've got to take his word, because you "really doesn't understand how the process works."

    Parse the words any way you want, Mr. Axelbank.
    There are some uncomfortable facts that remain.
    You're making up your own story, and you're insulting the work of others, with no facts to support you at all.

    Would you honestly accept that criticism of your work? You've already demonstrated your true answer with your responses to criticism here.

  25. I'll try to go point by point.

    i didn't say it wasn't true that the young man came from intolerable conditions! In fact i said that he came from the "most disgusting urban place imaginable". Also, as a commentator on life in the Bronx I have provided both professionally and privately some very direct criticism that in many cases has not been received well. So this suggestion that I would want to sugarcoat anything about the borough is a wrong one.... and i didn't do it here.

    Travis told them where he came from and they made choices, as every producer must do. Surely I understand that American Idol is not 60 minutes and maybe that's why i don't like the piece because I think they could have done a better job providing more information and balance in explaining the young man's emergence from those desperate situations.

    I'm not putting anything in Travis' mouth! What a crazy extraction of my point! I think the PRODUCERS should have done do a better job. I've said it over and over again. This is almost comical.

    You don't have to take my word! I even said so... sometimes people disagree. I can live with it. And i also have a right to offer my opinion on this blog. In this case, I happen to have considerable experience in the production process because it's made up a part of my livelihood for a long time. You don't have to like it or respect it, but again, there's no requirement that you do... but it is a fact.

    I'm not making up any story. I'm saying they need to do a better job in telling the one they were charged with and I explained what kinds of things they might have shown and offered questions they might have tried to answer to improve their piece. i was pretty specific. If there are other "facts" I need to present, gee, I'm sorry, but i don't know what they are.

    As far as my work... sure! It's an open book. Go right ahead. The phones are open every week (other than the handful that are taped ahead of time or have extensive production considerations that make it impossible) and I publicize my email at the beginning and end of each show. You send me a critique and I'll read it on the air. Because of time constraints I couldn't get to every word if it's long, but I'll make sure viewers know the gist of what is written whether good, bad, or different.

    hey... you don't have to like me or agree with what i've said. As I've indicated, I'm ok with that. But as long as this blog (and others) are open to me, I reserve the right to say what I think.

  26. GAX in the Bronx, I’m a little confused by your comments. First you said that “it’s clear they went out of their way to portray the Bronx negatively for maximum dramatic effect.” Now you say, “they could have done a better job of explaining the connection between how this young man… emerges from the most disgusting urban place imaginable.”

    How did they go out of their way to make the most disgusting urban place imaginable look even more negative? The show I watched didn’t show anything nearly that harsh.

    I honestly don’t see how your approach would be more informative than what they did. They could try to show how he learned to sing, like you say. They chose to talk about the difficult experiences he lived through. Yet both approaches are informative. They just inform on different subjects. I’m sure much of Middle America learned much more about Travis by hearing about the shelter system than they would understand if they saw “the young man singing or practicing singing in his difficult surroundings.”

  27. i don't agree with your conclusion, but you are certainly entitled to it.

    As for your earlier question, Here are some suggestions to clarify my point. As i have contended, there are choices the producer made that could have been done differently.

    The showing of the ambulance and the shot of the dangling phone, for example. Not inaccurate, for sure (i'd like to think they found the phone that way and didn't create the shot, which is too often done), but they are shots that go out of their way to "portray the Bronx negatively for dramatic affect."

    More importantly, they essentially asked him and all the people they interviewed to talk about only one thing: their surroundings and where he came from. There's a lot time there that could have been used differently because once they made that point, which could have and should have had attention and right up front, answers to other questions would have given viewers more information about Travis' wonderful talent and how it developed... and simultaneously satisfied the other considerations on balance, etc. Instead they answered the same question ... and only that one... in a number of different ways, both in audio and visually.

    Now you needn't agree with me, but that's what i thought of when i saw the piece - and each subsequent time i've watched it.

    But one thing i flatly reject is what the other anonymous contends that i didn't watch it and carelessly and thoughtlessly made comments to satisfy some other agenda that i might have or because i don't know any better. i watched it, and based on my experience in media (including extensive work as a segment producer and writer for all levels of production) critiqued it, and was bold enough to share those thoughts on a public blog (with my name on it).... and now i've backed them up and not run from the follow-up.

    The contention earlier that i was not honest and ethically challenged by doing this, well, i would dispute those notions directly.

  28. How is this not the Bronx? Well, I guess the only thing missing is dog poop on the sidewalks and people throwing their used diapers/used food wrappers out of their cars while they gun through a red light. I have lived her for the past nine years and find it disgusting. Yes, there are some nice parks, but they get trashed. The cops don't enforce laws here (I get a knife pulled on me for asking a man to stop throwing his garbage all over the street and the cops ask me why I care... "it isn't your property he is littering on!"-- why should they? Even the people who live here could care less about the quality of life. City services are non-exsistent, because no one fights for them or bothers to report a lack of them in the Bronx. It is frustrating.

    You work hard, you try to be active in your community, and then you walk your dog and see a Taxi driver changing his antifreeze while dumping the used antifreeze in the middle of 207th and Perry Ave. No one does anything. It is accepted... life goes on in the Bronx with its lack of economic development, abundance of shelters, politicians who don't even show up half the time, and mounds of garbage. Why should TV sugarcoat the Bronx?

  29. GAX in the Bronx, I think that clarifies things a great deal. I will agree to disagree, with one last observation.

    I think your example of the ambulance and a dangling pay phone as "shots that go out of their way to "portray the Bronx negatively for dramatic affect."" is simply incorrect.

    If you can say that the place Travis came from was "the most disgusting urban place imaginable," then these visuals are not "out of the way," but rather necessary to communicate the issue to the audience in an understandable way.

    It's not like they showed pictures of drug dealers shooting up on the street corner, or the police patting down somebody against the side of a squad car. I'm sure you know as well as the rest of us that it wouldn't really require that much more "out of the way" effort to get those much more negative images.

    You can feel that a dangling phone and an ambulance seem too negative, but living here, I entirely disagree. In my view, they found a way to quickly and accurately show the viewers the story Travis was telling them, and they did it without sensationalizing it.

  30. I understand. I think it's more a matter of degree for me. Since they had all that other stuff in there anyway, to me those shots were places they could have done something else with.

    But I appreciate the repartee! Hope you have a great day.... and GO JETS!

  31. What was said was true unfortunately. There has been too much sugarcoating recently of the dangerous realities that still exist in The Bronx.
    We are STILL one of the most violent, unhealthy, and polluted counties in the United States. Highest rates of single mothers, HIV, etc. Maybe Ruben would like to place some fake flower decals on the apartment windows to make the neighborhood appear nicer. Or instead he can help institute some real policies that clean up the borough. Your move Ruben. The Bronx needs more than just a mouthpiece, and unfortunately it seems that's just about all you are.

  32. Are you kidding me?!

    Anybody who says that a picture of an ambulance and a phone off the hook are bad images of the Bronx is either lying or doesn't know the borough.

    You must not be at the meetings where our community is begging and pleading to have the cops do something about the prostitutes performing sex acts on people's property. Kids are watching that stuff. Responsible, involved homeowners have to clean up soiled condoms.

    Don't tell me a phone off the hook makes the Bronx look bad! Come clean up the nastiness from the driveway, then tell me how offended you are by a phone off the hook!

    And believe me, people like this TV guy and the Borough President are part of the problem. I'm tired of people saying the residents need to be more involved. We are involved! But our efforts are undermined every time the people in these positions deny we have a problem.

    The Upper East Side pressures the city to get more cops to deal with whatever little quality of life problems they're so vocal about. That means fewer police resources for us, so our community still has people performing oral sex in front of the kids.

    Forget the phone. Get mad about something that will get us the fair treatment we deserve!


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