The Big Mad: Unreal Meal Deals, Vulture Capitalists and a Miscarriage of Missouri Justice

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If Alden Global Capital goes through with its plan to purchase Lee Enterprises, it would deal a devastating blow to the news landscape in St. Louis - TRAVIS PITTS
  • If Alden Global Capital goes through with its plan to purchase Lee Enterprises, it would deal a devastating blow to the news landscape in St. Louis

Welcome back to the Big Mad, the RFT's weekly roundup of righteous rage! Because we know your time is short and your anger is hot:

The Less You Know: Anyone worried that the citizenry around these parts is too well-informed should rejoice that Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that is evil even by hedge fund standards, has declared its intentions to buy Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If the past is prologue, an Alden-owned Post-Dispatch would be gutted and sold for parts. A neutered Post-Dispatch will be a boon for the sort of corruption, self-dealing and coverups that this city already has plenty of. Last week, one Post-Dispatch reporter told the RFT, "This is like having the grim reaper show up at your city’s door.” That is an understatement. Lee Enterprises publishes more than 70 daily newspapers in more than 25 states. So, in fact, there are several dozen grim reapers knocking on the doors of cities and towns, everywhere from Culpeper, Virginia, to Wahoo, Nebraska, to Napa, California. At least in St. Louis, we're not alone. Cold comfort indeed.

Lies TikTok Told Us: The setup was just plausible enough: On November 15, Springfield-area TikTok star Kyle Scheele released a video chronicling a “reverse heist” in which he and his friends designed and smuggled a giant cardboard cutout, featuring himself and advertising a non-existent “Kyle Scheele Meal,” into a Kum & Go gas station chain. But then! Kum & Go loved the bit so much they went ahead and actually offered the meal — a twelve-ounce Red Bull and a pizza sandwich — in a seemingly organic embrace of the viral moment. Only, it wasn’t: After receiving fluffy writeups in the Springfield News-Leader and USA Today, Adweek revealed the more complicated origin of the supposed viral prank, including the involvement of Kum & Go’s marketing division in planning its rollout. On Monday, Scheele released an apology to his 3.1 million followers, saying, “In retrospect, I should have been upfront and told you about it.” It’s understandable why many former fans aren’t taking Scheele’s contrition at face value: Playing with truth, constructing “real” moments, hiding coordination and monetary investment — these are dangerous building blocks in an era where truth, especially on the internet, is under attack. It’s also a truly bad look for the reporters and newspapers who blithely took the bit and turned it into news. Scheele has oodles of influencer charisma, but here he’s just a bad actor — and we have enough of those already.

Her Honor, St. Louis’ Shame: On November 30, St. Louis-born phenomenon Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to receive France’s highest honor by being inducted into the French Pantheon. Baker’s life spanned roles of entertainer, beauty icon, World War II spy and civil rights activist — but even as the world honors her, it's important to remember the overt racism that drove her to find a new home in Europe. Baker’s childhood included the murderous horror of the 1917 East St. Louis Race Riot, and, when she returned to St. Louis in 1952, she refused to perform in protest of her racially segregated audiences: “I ran away from home. I ran away from St. Louis,” she explained in a speech during the visit, “because of that terror of discrimination, that horrible beast which paralyzes one's very soul and body.” Generations later, St. Louis is still struggling to overcome that legacy of discrimination — and to be a city that Baker would be proud of.

It’s Just Us: It’s a rarity that this particular column, filled as it so often is with furious rage, gets to celebrate a win, so let’s get that out of the way: Kevin Strickland has been released from prison! After some 43 years spent behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, the Kansas City native's conviction was overturned last week by Judge James Welsh, who was persuaded by Jackson County prosecutors that Strickland was innocent and should "not remain in custody a day longer." That’s certainly good news, but it’s tempered by the fact that Strickland is not eligible to receive compensation from the state of Missouri, which only pays out if a prisoner is exonerated through DNA evidence. And he won’t find any sympathy from the state’s top leadership, either — both Governor Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt have in the past declined to act in Strickland’s case, despite urgent pleas from prosecutors. Strickland would be left with nothing — and, by his own account, would probably take up residence in a cardboard box under a bridge — if not for the generosity of the public, which has raised more than $1.6 million through a GoFundMe on his behalf. That’s nice and all, but those donors aren’t the ones who are responsible for costing a man more than four decades of his life. Where is the justice?
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