Gang violence is a plague in California’s Long Beach community. There are reportedly 6,000 gang members and affiliates in a city of 500,000, and last year, 13 young people were killed in the gang crossfire.
Charter Communications, the area cable provider, got involved and produced Enough Is Enough: A Community Dialogue on Keeping Our Kids Safe From Violence, a 41-hour telethon focusing not just on the problem but on potential solutions. Charter ran the special in May on not one but seven of its local cable channels.
VP of Communications Craig Watson was inspired by the Long Beach Press-Telegram series of the same title and teamed up with the newspaper and the Long Beach Gang Violence Prevention Task Force. Everybody got involved, from the mayor to the police chief to grassroots advocates.
“It became a huge event in Long Beach,” says Watson. So much so that local broadcast-TV news even covered it.
Charter, which produced three-quarters of the programming itself and acquired the rest, opened with a two-hour panel discussion featuring leaders from law enforcement, government, education and community-based organizations. But the telethon also filled the audience with religious leaders and former gang members.
One panel, anchored by Court TV’s Rikki Klieman, opened with a 20-minute documentary that put a human face on the issue by featuring interviews with family members of young people killed by gang violence; another documentary highlighted the rise of gangs in the area.
Still another documentary was created by the fire department and gave a glimpse at first responders like paramedics, as well as doctors and nurses, in action attempting to cope with the bloody, chaotic and sometimes hopeless aftermath of gang attacks.
Most significant was the public commitment to finding jobs and summer internships for the city’s young people. Deputy City Manager Reggie Harrison announced on-air that the city would expand its “Inspired Interns” program, which had 65 participants, paid for with a federal grant, to more than 1,000 funded by challenging area employees to make tax-deductible contributions of $500 each. Boeing representatives, at a facility in Long Beach, challenged rival Gulfstream to participate.
Charter, of course, committed as well, pledging to hire five summer interns as part of the project. It’s also planning another round of specials.—S.M.
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.