CHARTER Keeping the Heat on Gangs


Undertaking an ambitious project and pulling it off is indeed a rewarding feeling. But with public affairs initiatives, following up is often an even more vital step toward ensuring that hard-won gains are not lost over time.

That's a classic example set by the Long Beach, Calif., division of Charter Communications.

After winning tremendous acclaim in 2005 for its efforts to combat gang violence in the city, the division decided last year to focus on the subject again with a project called “Enough Is Enough—Revisited.”

“As much attention as we were able to bring to the topic originally, gang violence wasn't going away and it remains an enormously complex topic,” says Craig Watson, VP of communications for Charter's West division.

Acknowledging that there are approximately 5,000 gang members in this poverty-stricken city of 476,000, Watson showed his commitment to the issue by remaining on the Mayor's Task Force on Youth Violence after the airing of the original “Enough Is Enough” in 2005. That 41-hour programming marathon, including news features, panels, and interviews with locals and politicians, earned Charter a Beacon Award.

Charter, which is involved in numerous other local initiatives, not only ran the original programming block but also previewed the event with PSAs and help from local talk show hosts.

A partnership with the local paper and NPR station yielded more press coverage.

The 2007 version last summer was far shorter—three nights of three hours each—but Watson says Charter wasn't skimping.

“We learned that as impressive as the first time was, we could take a more targeted approach and still be effective,” he says. “We wanted to look deeper into certain areas.”

The first night focused on the importance of early childhood education and early intervention as a way of preventing violence later on. The third night revolved around job development for teens; both nights featured a mix of panel discussions and pre-taped segments.

The middle night offered stark profiles of former gang members who had been badly wounded—some of whom went on to become youth counselors.

“That was a very powerful program,” Watson says. “We wanted to remind people that this issue is still very much alive here.”