CJR Outbox

The uprising against police brutality is not about journalists

June 3, 2020

The violence American police are inflicting on those protesting police violence extends to journalists, too. 

Freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado was permanently blinded in one eye by what she believes was a rubber bullet. Detroit police demanded a Free Press journalist show his press pass, and tear gassed him as he searched for the credential. Michael Adams of Vice filmed on his phone as Minnneapolis police told him to lie down on the ground of a local gas station—which he did, clutching his press pass and repeating the words “I am press”—and then soaked his face in pepper spray. 

“I’ve covered protests for 15 years across the US,” tweeted CBS news correspondent Michael George on Sunday. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen police actively and intentionally target the press with rubber bullets, tear gas, and arrests.”

The presumption is that we’re being targeted, because being targeted means we’re important. The simple truth is that in a crowd, journalists are not separate. We’re not protected. We’re subject to the same soup of adrenaline, and rage, and terror as anyone else. 

We must stop focusing on ourselves. The journalist breathlessly detailing their own victimhood has become a sub-genre of a story that is, and should be, about the killing of George Floyd, its systemic causes, and the chaotic hostility of a president who fetishizes violence perpetrated by the strong over the weak (from the safety of his bunker). 

We are not worthier victims just because the fourth estate works to uphold democracy. It’s our job. And we’d do well to focus on those who don’t have the opportunity to write 800 words about their own importance afterward. 

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Amanda Darrach is a contributor to CJR and a visiting scholar at the University of St Andrews School of International Relations. Follow her on Twitter @thedarrach.