Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mistreatment at Ferguson

Nick Kairys

During the Ferguson, Missouri riots last year, the nation had a right to know of the events occurring.

Therefore, journalists did nothing wrong by standing their ground and reporting news, as they had a right to cover the commotion on the scene.

With that being the case, no line can be drawn when reporters are so immersed in their coverage that they are swept into the craze of police orders, tear gas and arrests.

So what can be done to prevent so much chaos and confusion between the need to seek the truth and report it against the responsibility to minimize harm to the public?

It’s most important that journalists conduct research on what they are getting themselves into. They should understand their surroundings and the situation at hand.

As an editor or owner of a publication, it may seem acceptable to throw a reporter right out to the scene because in news you want to be first. And that’s understandable.

In a time, however, where immediacy is highly valued among a society that wants its news quick and at the tips of its fingers, accuracy should be as important as ever.

This means journalists need to have knowledge of where they are positioning themselves and how the situation is unfolding, because a confused journalist cannot write, shoot, or film their work with 100% credibility and efficiency.

It is also imperative that journalists make themselves known to the police. Obviously this doesn’t mean reporters need to show up to riots with a big sign on their forehead that says “I’m a journalist” because that will only attract unwanted attention.

But in times of duress it should be necessary for credentials to be presented to law enforcement. At least something like an ID or passport (as Ellyn Angelotti from the Poynter Institute mentions), which can help clear up shouting matches of whether a reporter has a right to be somewhere.

Law enforcement must take clear action as well. It’s not acceptable to treat journalists wrongly just because a riot is going on and the situation is hectic.

There is no excuse for demanding the press to not record video (it is their public right to do so). And if a journalist must be detained, there should also be clear evidence of the subject breaking a law and a report filed on the matter.

Ohio University alum Wesley Lowery, in his personal account of being arrested in Ferguson, noted that police used excessive force — especially since Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and Lowery neither resisted arrest nor put the cops in any danger.

This will not be the last time a riot will break out in the United States, and it is only right that journalists and law enforcement work together in the best interest of the people.

From the verified White House Twitter account, this quote from President Obama sums up how reporters should be protected in this country.

Source of photo: ugtimes.com

If journalists must seek the news and report it to the best of their abilities, it’s only right that they should feel as safe as possible doing so.

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