Posts Tagged ‘jennifer keeton


My run in with Jennifer Keeton

First a little background for those unfamiliar with local Augusta news (although this did make the national news for a millisecond a few weeks back.) 

Jennifer Keeton is a graduate student at Augusta State University studying education counseling.  Apparently she told a group of students something along the lines of homosexuality is wrong and she believes this because of her religion and wants to convert them.  ASU told her to stop and now she’s suing for infringement of her rights.  That’s the really really basic gist of it. 

When the news broke, a photo of her on a balcony was provided to the media (from whom I don’t know) which has pretty much circled the globe 63 times by now.  At my paper, The Augusta Chronicle, everytime we wrote an update story to how the case was going (it’s still going by the way), we’d use that same picture over and over again.  Sometimes cropped into a mug (journalism speak for headshot) or the full picture. 

I don’t know a single newspaper editor that doesn’t start having a nervous twitch when a mug has been run more than three times.  It’s just stale as last week’s bread, and a fresh picture becomes a priority.  Of course, Keeton was ordered by the court to stop attending class for the time being and although we have her address, we aren’t going to go paparazzi her house.   So as the news calmed and no new developments with the case were in sight, the urgency for a fresh picture died down and it became the general consensus around the newroom that it was now a waiting game. A waiting game to see when she’d show up at a public event. 

Now on to last Tuesday.  I was assigned to cover a meet and greet with Pam Tebow, mother of ex-quarterback for the Florida Gators Tim Tebow, who garnered fame because of the pro-life commercial she made for this year’s Superbowl.  At any rate, she tours the country speaking to groups about abortion.

I was a little early so I casually walked up the center stair case at the downtown Marriott that leads to the various ballrooms and conference rooms.  And as I got to the top, I stopped dead in my tracks when I instantly recognized Jennifer Keeton.  Of course, she instantly looked at me too, what with all the photo gear on me I was less than inconspicuous.  We both shared an instant moment of heart sinkage.  But to her credit she kept it cool.  And I hope I did as well while nonchalantly walking past as I looked for the Lamar room. 

I knew Pam Tebow would arrive shortly and that THE shot would be the two shaking hands or talking to one another.  After a few feable attempts to get something from far away – just in case – Tebow arrived and that’s when I let discreteness take a backseat.  I got close and fired like a mad man (of course seconds earlier the autofocus on my camera stopped working, so I had to revert to manually focusing in a dark hallway where I couldn’t actually see if things were sharp or not — I’d later discover that a switch had been flipped to manual focus by accident.)  Pam Tebow had no idea who she was and continued to ham it up for the camera, over facial expressing and over exhuberantly shaking hands.  No matter, because in this picture, it makes Tebow look like even she’s surprised to see Keeton for the first time in months.  There’s nothing really remarkable about the photo, except for its news value.

Anyway, I ran back to the paper and got a few pat on the backs for being at the right place at the right time.  News-wise I’d say I’ve had a pretty good week so far.

Pam Tebow, right, speaks with Jennifer Keeton, left, at the Augusta Care Pregnancy Center banquet, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff



KKK cross lighting

It’s not everyday the KKK conducts a rally three blocks from your house.  It’s also not everyday the KKK decides to hold the first public cross lighting ceremony in 50 years the same day a few miles away.

And yet that’s what happened today.  On my day off.  But I wasn’t going to miss this.

A member of the Ku Klux Klan holds a swastika flag during a rally in front of Augusta State University, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

The local Klan announced a few weeks ago that they would rally in front of Augusta State University to support Jennifer Keeton, who is suing the school for requiring her to learn about the homosexual community or be expelled.  To be honest, it was a rather unsuccessful rally.  It was highly contolled by the police, and there were more counter-protesters than actual KKK members present.  The whole thing turned into a shouting match and even though the Klan had a permit to demonstrate from 1pm to 4pm, they called the whole thing off after about 20 minutes and left.  All in all pretty lame.

Then I get home to find out they would be burning a cross, and that it would be open to the public.  Now it’s getting simultaneously better and weirder.  I drop dinner with my wife (sorry honey) and haul out to Warrenville, S.C., hoping it won’t be another dud like earlier.  It’s not.

After a couple of hours listening to the Imperial Wizard talk about the KKK’s views and why they are misunderstood, and reporters try to ask questions that don’t immediately reflect their political and cultural views (lots of dancing around the real questions, really), the ceremony finally started.  We learned that they don’t actually burn the cross, but the fabric that surrounds it, and that the ceremony wouldn’t take long (the cross was aflame for 2 minutes, almost exactly, according to the time stamps on my pictures.)  And to make things even more photo friendly, more than half the members were in robes and hoods.

And even though it was a public ceremony, noone from the public showed.  Local television news didn’t show either.  It was only me and the other staff photographers at the Chronicle, who were all present whether or not they were on duty.  And two staff writers.  That’s about it really.  I guess I can’t blame the public for not showing.  Who would want to be in the vicinity when the cross is lit?  As media we have an excuse to satisfy our curiousity.

As it was my day off, I’m free to do what I want with the images, so I immediately shopped them around and after the AP passed up the chance, Reuters took three photos of mine.  I think it’s one of Yahoo!’s top photos tonight, but that could be changed by the time you read this.  In any case, it’s great fun shopping around a photo when you’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to prove – and you know the image has great news value.

As a side note, the Imperial Wizard warned us that it was likely that the police would probably show up just after the start of the ceremony.  Sure enough, as each Klansman was lighting his torch, a cruiser drove by on the narrow dead end gravel road.  I though surely he’d get out and break up the party, but he just drove on by.  I was surprised.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan wrap a cross with fabric before a lighting ceremony, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C.

Imperial Klaliff David Webster begins a Ku Klux Klan cross lighting ceremony at a home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a cross lighting ceremony at a klansman's home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years. REUTERS/Rainier Ehrhardt

Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a cross lighting ceremony at a klansman's home, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Warrenville, S.C. KKK Imperial Wizard Duwayne Johnson said it was the first public cross lighting in 50 years. REUTERS/Rainier Ehrhardt