Right now, the most difficult place in America to be a journalist is arguably St. Louis, Missouri. It has been more than two weeks since Jason Stockley, the white former police officer who fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, in 2011, was acquitted by a St. Louis judge, and protests over racial inequalities show no signs of abating. Journalists covering the protests have been caught in the middle of the action, enduring tear gas and rough treatment from both police and protesters.
On Tuesday night, reporter Jordan Chariton and cameraman Ty Bayliss, both journalists for The Young Turks, were arrested. So were independent live-streamer Jon Ziegler and freelance photojournalist Daniel Shular. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has done excellent work reporting out these incidents; so far, the project has documented 27 arrests and 25 physical attacks on journalists across the US in 2017. One trend that’s evident in the Tracker’s data is the prevalence of incidents occurring at protests.
At the Paley Center’s Tuesday evening panel on the state of press freedom in America, several journalists referenced the dangers facing journalists covering protests in 2017. The Press Freedom Tracker is a new project, so it’s impossible to compare its data to past years, but there’s no denying the reality that frequent and increasingly visible protests have placed journalists in difficult situations.
The nightly protests in St. Louis are into their third week, with authorities on Tuesday evening taking 143 people into custody, a high-water mark in terms of police action. Despite their size and longevity, the protests haven’t drawn the sort of national attention that greeted those in nearby Ferguson three years ago. That should change. Reports of excessive force by police have been prevalent, and journalists are needed on the ground to accurately document the events and tell the stories of both protesters and police. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk said after he was arrested while covering protests in September, “I can’t imagine how one-sided this discussion would be about what happened on Sunday night if not just reporters, but other people filming, weren’t there or somehow did not have the ability to do that.”
Below, more on the St. Louis protests and the threats to journalists who cover them.
- The same concerns: More than three years after Michael Brown’s death, The Washington Post’s Abigail Hauslohner writes that there has been “little action by local police departments toward resolving or even acknowledging the existence of racial discrimination.”
- After a protest arrest, what should newsrooms do?: CJR’s Jonathan Peters spoke with media lawyers and news executives about how newsrooms should prepare for and respond to their reporters being arrested while covering protests.
- Case study: Faulk’s arrest was one of the few pieces of protest news to break through nationally. The Press Freedom Tracker has an overview of his case.
Other notable stories
- “Neither of us had ever reported a story of this difficulty before.” Politico’s Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan explain how a vague tip in March led to months of trying to nail down the details of former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s private flights.
- CJR’s Alexandria Neason and Karen K. Ho compared coverage of the Las Vegas shooting to previous mass shooting events. They found “an unsettling repetition of superlatives” as wells as a “familiar treatment of white men who commit violent crime…and a hesitation to describe what happened in Vegas as terrorism.”
- Harvey Weinstein has “enlisted a team of attorneys to fight planned articles that are said to be about his personal behavior,” according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters and Chris Gardner. The New York Times, NBC, and The New Yorker are all reportedly chasing stories about the movie mogul’s actions.
- Los Angeles Times staffers are headed for a showdown with parent company Tronc, reports The New York Times’s Sydney Ember. Yesterday, the committee behind a unionization push went public with its reasoning.
- Interesting story from BuzzFeed’s Steven Perlberg and Mark Di Stefano on Rupert Murdoch as an unlikely hero in the media’s battle with Facebook and Google.
- Crooked Media, the progressive brainchild of former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett, is expanding. Brian Beutler, formerly of TPM and The New Republic, has been brought on as editor in chief to oversee a new website and growing network of contributors.
- Also expanding, the president’s favorite television show. Fox & Friends is adding two predawn hours of programming. CNN’s Tom Kludt has the details.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that former officer Jason Stockley was acquitted by a jury. Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, and was acquitted by Judge Timothy J. Wilson.