Sam Riddle is back in the Detroit media spotlight again, and this time for the unlikeliest of reasons.
From 2009 to about 2012, there was a time when nearly anything Riddle did – or said – made a headline. If it wasn’t for his political doings (Riddle not only was swept up in federal corruption charges that nabbed several local politicos years ago, he also had an infamous gun charge during that time), it was for his no-holds-barred commentary on social media. And Detroit media couldn’t get enough.
Save for a panel discussion here or there, Riddle has mostly laid low for the past few years until now, where he’s front and center again – but not for his own misdeeds.
For the past six months, Riddle tells BLAC, he and the Rev. W.J. Rideout III of Detroit’s All God’s People Church, have been pressuring WDIV executives to relieve now-former reporter Lauren Podell of her position at the station after she was heard saying she was “tired of niggers killing niggers” while on the beat. (The comment, for clarification’s sake, was not made on air, though Podell has been profane in front of a hot mic.)
How did Riddle become the face of this? Riddle says put-off employees at WDIV contacted him and Rideout to put the squeeze on the station, and trusted them not to endanger their position with the station.
“I have what I consider to be unimpeachable sources in mainstream media in Detroit,” Riddle says during a protest outside WDIV Thursday morning. “Basically they handed me a match, and I lit it.”
As first reported by BLAC, Podell’s resignation came Wednesday, but Riddle says she should have been fired from the station in April when the off-color comment was made.
But Riddle says WDIV employees with knowledge of Podell’s comment “were really frustrated. They were very leery of saying anything themselves.”
It’s a blemish for the station, which should be still celebrating the retirement of Carmen Harlan, its longtime evening anchor who is a pillar of black journalism. But Riddle says Podell’s comments are sadly reflective of the times.
“It’s the rise of [President-elect] ‘Trump-ism,’” he says. “A lot of racists have been lurking in the closet. Now they’re free to come out. Hate has been incubating for over a year during the Trump campaign.”
Riddle says his end goal is to keep Detroit media outlets as transparent as they demand the public to be. (A fitting turn of tables for Riddle, which should be noted.) But it’s also important, he says, for local journalists to be mindful of the market they work in.
“There’s a difference between Dave Chappelle uttering that word and those who are in a position to shape stories about America’s blackest city,” he says. “Otherwise, we end up in a Detroit where we ‘get tired of niggers killing niggers.’ That’s her world, that’s not my world.”