Journalists – Traditional And Otherwise – Beaten In L.A.
One issue we've been keeping our eye on here is the implications of the increasingly blurring lines between regular citizens engaged in reporting and traditional journalists. Josh Wolf, who calls himself a journalist as well as an activist, spent more than seven months in federal prison for not turning over videotape of a San Francisco street protest. Student Jamal Albarghouti's cell phone footage of the Virginia Tech tragedy, which was played on CNN repeatedly, had us wondering whether citizen journalists might someday put themselves at risk in their quest to cover a story.
Now comes news that journalists were beaten by police at the Los Angeles immigration protests – and part of the reason may be that police couldn't distinguish between traditional journalists and citizen journalists who were also there as activists. Via Lost Remote, here's some pretty amazing video of journalists, both traditional and self-styled, fleeing baton-wielding officers, some of whom struck those holding video cameras.
The police are being investigated for their conduct in the case, which L.A. Police Chief William Bratton has called "inappropriate."
"Our national anchor was being pushed by the batons," Reporter Marcia Garcia of the Spanish-language Telemundo 52 told KCAL-TV, according to the Associated Press. "Our TV set was destroyed — monitors, cables, everything on the ground — it was like a surrealistic nightmare."
Here's a bit more from the AP story:
KPCC radio reporter Patricia Nazario said she was hit in the back and ribs with a baton, then hit her head and twisted her ankle while falling from a blow. She described an interaction with an officer who was hitting her.According to the L.A. Times, some news organizations are considering legal action.
"'Why did you hit me? I'm a reporter?'" Nazario recounted Wednesday during an interview on her station. "And he hit me again, harder that time, and I fell; and I fell on the dirt and my phone flew like about 12 feet in front of me."
Jill Leovy's excellent eyewitness account of what happened may shed some light on why police acted as they did towards journalists.
The lingerers were a mix of protesters and reporters. Some were reporters from established news organizations watching or recording what police were doing, and some were self-styled grassroots reporters -- protesters with cameras -- some of whom were both filming officers closely and yelling challenges at them. At least three men in this mixed group lingered long enough to be caught by the advancing line of officers and they were batoned.More:
At a press conference with Chief Bratton about 9 Tuesday night at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Park View, tensions between the informal press and the formal press bubbled over.In light of the continuing debate over the definition of the word "journalist," we can expect more situations like this in the future.
As the chief spoke, with Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger at his side, at least 40 people surrounded him, with six or seven squatting on the ground in front to hear better. About half of the group appeared not to be official members of the press corps, but rather, protesters and self-appointed journalists affiliated with the protesters. When it came time to call out questions -- often a competitive moment among reporters from competing news agencies -- the protesters held their own.
As questioners peppered Bratton with demands for answers, some seemed more intent on expressing their own views than hearing Bratton's and there was confusion about whether those speaking were paid by an established news organization or were self-appointed.
A large man in front of the chief to his right, who had been heckling with words of skepticism throughout the event, repeatedly asked in a loud voice whether the chief planned to appoint a civilian panel to investigate the incident. He interrupted reporters. Tempers flared. Dave Clark, a well-known broadcast journalist with KCAL 9 and CBS 2, admonished him to be quiet. "We are trying to work here!" Clark said.
At one point, Bratton also asked this man to be quiet. The press conference was being held for the benefit of the official media, he said. The man responded by insisting he was a "citizen journalist," but then backed down, professing his respect for the chief.