Death of ‘hood CNN’ pioneer exposes gangland reporting risks

CHICAGO (AP) — The killing of a pioneer in a new genre of news in which videographers interview street gangs and rappers in high-crime areas has unnerved other gangland reporters nationwide.

The drive-by shooting of Zack Stoner last year in Chicago has exposed an ominous side to the line of newsgathering that Stoner liked to call “hood CNN.” Gun violence is a recurring theme.

Gangland reporters around the country considered Stoner, nicknamed ZackTV, a mentor. His still-unsolved slaying showed how vulnerable these reporters are.

After Stoner’s death, videographer Shawn Cotton began carrying a gun when going into gang territory. Cotton, who travels around the country but considers Texas home, also wears a bulletproof vest now.

Critics say the gangland reporters’ YouTube channels glorify gangs. But the reporters also risk their lives to provide a voice for communities routinely ignored by mainstream media.