News Hits

Feb 2, 2000 at 12:00 am

Cutting-edge trash TV

You probably don’t remember the name Robert Nitz, but you might recall his story. Nitz was featured in a 1998 Metro Times article that investigated the state of mental health care in Oakland County. At the time, Nitz was struggling to deal with both a severe psychological condition that compelled him to mutilate himself and a system of care that could be woefully inadequate.

Nitz made it into the news again last week when a couple of local television stations followed up on a press release issued by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department.

When a deputy responded to a noise complaint in late December, Nitz told the officer he was wanted on a drunk driving charge and was taken into custody. On his way to jail, the 280-pound former mental patient broke his handcuffs and then did something he’d done numerous times before: he took the jagged edge of steel and cut into his stomach. Then, according to police, he began pulling out his insides.

So, how did the local newscasts handle the story? With all the sensitivity of Jerry Springer.

Fox 2’s treatment was the worst. Anchor Fanchon Stinger set the tone when she introduced the piece saying that even grizzled police officers and EMS personnel might find this "hard to stomach."

Oh, the wits.

In standard TV-news fashion, they proceeded to offer up the gory details while doing absolutely nothing to enlighten viewers about the history of Nitz, the nature of his illness, or – heaven forbid – some examination about what is going on in this state regarding the care and treatment of our mentally ill.

How typical.

At last report, Nitz was still hospitalized, awaiting a hearing on resisting arrest and malicious destruction of property charges pending a psychiatric evaluation.

Ness on the run

Tom Ness, the publisher of Jam Rag music magazine, announced this week that he will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate on the Green Party ticket.

Ness, deemed a "progressive hero" by the MT last year, says running for office is the last thing he expected to do, but when friends and supporters urged him to offer up an alternative to Democrat Debbie Stabenow and GOP incumbent Spence Abraham, he decided to heed their call.

Ness, who has been active in the fight to open radio airwaves to low-powered FM stations, is still celebrating the Federal Communications Commission’s announcement last month that it is revising regulations to allow small community stations the chance to apply for a license.

"I’ve seen firsthand how the broadcasters have our elected leaders by the throats," said Ness in his announcement. "And with every election, another slice of public interest is sold off in the name of ‘winner take all.’"

To find out more about Ness’ candidacy, check out the campaign’s Web site at

Doggin' drug companies

While on the subject of the senate campaign, we should mention Stabenow, a congresswoman from Lansing, kicked off a radio tour last week to focus attention on the issue of prescription drug costs. As part of the effort, Stabenow unleashed a study that examined the prices paid for drugs that are prescribed to both humans and animals. What she found was that "manufacturer prices are more than twice as high for humans as they are for animals." In some cases, the markup is as high as 400 percent.

We say, "Sic ‘em, Deb!"


The Xicano Development Center on the southwest side is being given the old heave-ho. The organization, which is devoted to calling attention to political struggles affecting Chicanos and Latinos, is being evicted from its Vernor location to make room for a restaurant and jazz club.

"It’s gentrification," says 33-year old Todd Mireles, who founded the center in 1997 with Nora Salas. He points to rising rents, property values and new businesses as evidence of the changing neighborhood. Mireles says that he doesn’t fault the building owner who gave the group 60 to 90 days to move; he only hopes he can find new affordable digs – or raise $50,000 to buy a building for the center. "I’m not that optimistic," says Mireles about the prospect of raising the money before the 90 days expires. For more info on how to help the Xicano Development Center call: 313-841-0838.