No one will hit you and you’ll never learn

So much wrong here: 

KSDK multimedia journalist Casey Nolen said that Tuesday night, the Ferguson Police Department’s public information officer called his station to say the station should alert journalists on the scene that police were going to use tear gas soon. “It was a ‘not for broadcast’ alert that they gave us. KSDK photojournalist Tom Herman captured video of police confronting a protestor. Police spotted Herman, shined a light directly at him, and second later, without warning, fired a beanbag round at him that pinged off his tripod.
It was a “not for broadcast” alert? What is that? Information the police give you that’s special friendly friend info that you can use but not transmit to the people who, you know, you’re supposed to be informing? Was it embargoed information? Off the record? If so, why are you talking about it now? This is the first I’m hearing of a “not for broadcast” alert, and I’ve been watching journalism get stupid for a long damn time now.

Local television journalists from St. Louis covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri tell Poynter.org there is a version of the story unfolding that has not been widely told. These journalists say it’s true that some officers have come at them with weapons drawn but others have shown remarkable restraint.

KTVI photojournalist Dave Sharp was hit in the thigh by a rubber bullet Wednesday night. “It’s no big deal,” the 26-year news veteran said. “Look, the police gave everyone a lot of warning to get out of there.”

The point is that they didn’t have to get out of there. The point is that they had a right to be where they were. And you should be defending that right, not going on about how the cops warned people they were about to violate their rights before they did it.

God Almighty. “Some of the cops don’t suck.” That’s not the story. Of course some of the cops are going to be nice to you, especially if you’re properly deferential:

“There is a lot of tension out there, no doubt,” Smith said, “But honestly what I saw was a lot of restraint. I was all ‘yes sir and no sir’ and the police treated me with respect.”  Smith said he did see many “independent” journalists, bloggers and others with small cameras, not TV cameras working “right up in the SWAT team’s faces.”

Yeah. You were doing what they wanted you to do, so they didn’t have to bust your head. Which, again, is not the point. It is, however, a cousin to the argument that if you weren’t wearing that dress …

And why the hell shouldn’t independent journalists and bloggers and people with small cameras film the SWAT teams? In that situation, it’s not pointless antagonizing. They have that right, and their exercising of it isn’t obnoxious, it’s a goddamn necessity. The satellite trucks for the cable ‘nets got there late and got kicked out early.  In some cases the livestreamers were the only ones getting information out.

You’re a fucking reporter, do I have to explain to you that laws are not just for nice people who wear ties and carry the right kind of camera equipment?

We still hear this far too much, this “if you’d just behave yourself and be professional” bullshit directed from reporter to reporter. It’s so much easier to ally yourself with those in authority and kick down at the unwashed hippies with their tiny little cameras and tiny little web sites, than it is to see them as the same as you, and defend their work as you’d defend your own.

You’re stronger when there are more of you. Why would you make yourself weaker, just to suck up to people who yeah, this time, may not have hit you, but make no mistake: They’re not your friends.

A.

3 thoughts on “No one will hit you and you’ll never learn

  1. “And why the hell shouldn’t independent journalists and bloggers and people with small cameras film the SWAT teams? In that situation, it’s not pointless antagonizing. They have that right, and their exercising of it isn’t obnoxious, it’s a goddamn necessity.”

    Not that it would be any less awful, but a video of Michael Brown and the cop would certainly clarify at least some things…

  2. I am trying to imagine what the response would have been in the late `60s or early `70s. I’m guessing that reporters would not have been quite so deferential, although the tendency to defer has always been there. But, then, any attempt to get the reporters to leave (or stay away, in this instance) would automatically suggest to the reporters that the police were intending to do something illegal that they did not want filmed.

    But, the reasonable response to the police firing on reporters should be “this reporter was intentionally targeted by the police,” and not “it’s no big deal.” Because it is a big deal when the police start attacking reporters for doing their jobs.

  3. Any cop who shot me with a beanbag would be looking at the wrong end of an arrest warrant within an hour. That’s just bullshit.

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