Also see: The Reporter the Amerikan MSM Didn't Care About
Occupation Iraq: U.S. Quietly Releases Reporters
So, it would appear that the MSM doesn't give a shit about ITS OWN CREDIBILITY or ITS OWN EMPLOYEES!!! This PROVES the AmeriKan MSM is NOTHING MORE than WAR-PROMOTING, AGENDA-PUSHING PIMPS, folks!!!!!
"Rolled; Where’s the outrage over media mistreatment at the RNC?
Given the media’s reputation for self-absorption, it’s remarkable how little attention the press has paid to the crackdown on journalists during September’s Republican National Convention. While the exact tally varies from source to source, it seems that close to 50 journalists were detained or arrested in St. Paul (out of approximately 800 arrests total) while covering protests outside the convention. Some of them were treated gently and released quickly, but others were held at length or roughed up by the police. What’s more, a pre-convention raid on a St. Paul home targeted members of I-Witness Video, a New York group whose work exonerated hundreds of protesters following the 2004 RNC. And while St. Paul city attorney John Choi announced, on September 19, that many cases against journalists wouldn’t be pursued — in particular, those involving the possible misdemeanor count of presence at an unlawful assembly — these decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis and are far from complete.
Oddly, though, the jeopardy that journalists faced in St. Paul never became much of a story. There wasn’t a news blackout, exactly: the Associated Press (AP) and the local Minnesota media covered the issue, as did left-leaning outlets like the Nation and Salon, and national heavyweights like ABC News and the Washington Post gave it some early, blog-based coverage.
The problem, instead, is that the story was ignored or minimized by other important organizations — the New York Times being the most prominent example — and, as the weeks progressed, never seemed to generate any sort of sustained concern inside the media itself, the efforts of groups like the Society for Professional Journalists notwithstanding. In the words of Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “It never really got into the conversation at a level where it had an impact.”
What’s especially strange about this is that the activity that got these journalists into trouble — monitoring the exercise of government power — is one of the most important things the fourth estate does. So why the muted response to their plight?
A bridge, too far?
One answer, obviously, is that it’s been kind of a busy month. Think of the other stories that have been kicking around since the first journalists were arrested on September 1, the RNC’s opening day: Hurricane Gustav, Sarah Palin’s debut, McCain’s acceptance speech and post-convention bump, the sequestering of Palin, her subsequent public implosion, the Wall Street meltdown, McCain’s one-day suspension of his campaign, the first presidential debate, Obama regaining front-runner status. Oh yeah, and Hurricane Ike.
There’s also the Amy Goodman Effect to consider. Goodman, the host of the independent radio and TV program Democracy Now!, was arrested on September 1, after trying to reach two of her producers — Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous — who’d been arrested and injured while covering a clash between police and protesters. Goodman’s arrest in particular quickly became a cause célèbre on the left, thanks largely to an arrest video that was posted on democracynow.org and became YouTube’s most-watched video on September 1 and 2.
In retrospect, though, Goodman’s status as the RNC’s designated media martyr may actually have deterred further coverage. “Amy Goodman and her colleagues aren’t considered part of the fraternity,” notes Eric Alterman, the Nation media critic and author of What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News. “They’re actually enormously resented by many journalists, and with good reason: they treat the mainstream media as if it’s part of a corporate conspiracy to keep people from knowing the truth. There’s not the sense of affinity there. They’re viewed more as activists than as journalists in the minds of many.”
In addition, some observers question the wisdom of Goodman’s actions in St. Paul. The day after her arrest, Goodman told the Phoenix that she’d been arrested without warning after attempting to get to Salazar and Kouddous. But the video of her arrest is more ambiguous. Goodman approaches a cop in full riot gear and tries to explain her intent. He tells her three times, quickly, to go back to the sidewalk. When she doesn’t, he attempts to push her toward the sidewalk; as he does, she protests that she’s got full convention credentials. He keeps pushing; she keeps protesting; then he tells his colleagues to arrest her.
Did Goodman go too far? Lucy Dalglish — the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which maintained a legal hotline for detained journalists during the RNC — seems to think so. “She went up there and got in the cop’s face,” says Dalglish. “I’m not surprised she was arrested.” (Goodman and her producers no longer face charges.)
Add it all up, then, and the mainstream media’s lack of interest may not be as surprising as it initially seems. But here’s the problem: because this story never really took off, a large segment of the public — and even the press — seems not to realize just how wide-ranging the RNC’s crackdown on journalists was.
Yes, the Democracy Now! staffers were arrested, along with others who might stretch traditional notions of what journalists are. (A Minnesota Independent list includes two people from Seattle’s Pepperspray Productions — your source for video “from the front lines of the global battle against the corporate state” — and three from New York’s Glass Bead Collective, which has worked with Billionaires for Bush and aims to “re-contextualize culture and the world in which we find ourselves today.”) But plenty of mainstream journalists ran into trouble, too.
Take the case of John Wise, a national editor for MyFox, a subsection of Fox News. On September 4, the convention’s last night, Wise and a colleague left the Fox tent to cover a developing protest. He ended up moving back and forth over a series of bridges in downtown St. Paul, usually in response to police orders, shooting stills and video as police-launched weaponry detonated in the background. In the process, he formed a surprisingly good picture of the protesters. (“I’m not just trying to be some liberal journalist,” Wise tells the Phoenix, “but I did not see one protester get violent, break anything, throw anything at anybody, anything like that. People were wanting to get away, but that’s natural — they were scared.”)
Eventually, Wise ended up in a crowd of several hundred people on the Marion Street bridge, which was promptly sealed off by police on both the northern and southern ends. As the police began to make arrests, Wise recalls members of the press were promised that they’d be processed quickly and allowed to leave. Instead, his credentials and camera bag were confiscated; then he was taken to Ramsey County Jail, where he spent the night before being released early the following morning.
As you might expect, given his employer, Wise is no Amy Goodman. Nor does he come across as a passionate defender of press freedoms. But what he saw and experienced at the RNC seems to have given him pause.
“Why were some journalists arrested and some weren’t?” Wise asks. “Once things calmed down on the bridge, why were certain people told some things while other people were told other things? I’m not the biggest preacher of this amendment or that one. But something that’s very eye-opening, like what happened to me in St. Paul, will make you take a bit more of a stance.”
Unsettling as Wise’s experience may have been, he had it easy compared with Matt Rourke and Evan Vucci, two AP photographers who ran into trouble on the night of September 1. According to a letter that David Tomlin, the AP’s associate general counsel, sent to St. Paul police chief John Harrington, Rourke — who’d been following a violent splinter group of protesters on September 1 — was tackled from behind by a police officer and bloodied in the process. Then, he was arrested. (When he was released, without being charged, 10 hours later, at 2 am, a bystander quipped that he must be “well-connected.”)
Vucci, who was working near Rourke on September 1, was picked up from behind and thrown to the ground, an action that broke his camera. After he followed orders and rolled onto his stomach, he was kicked in the ribs and then cuffed. Ultimately, after showing his credentials, he was allowed to leave the area without being detained.
In his letter to Harrington, Tomlin contrasted the treatment of Rourke and Vucci with the three-hour detention, on September 4, of reporters Amy Forliti and Jon Krawczynski (who, like Wise, were arrested on the Marion Street bridge). Journalists covering this sort of story risk being detained, Tomlin acknowledged. But Rourke and Vucci weren’t given a chance to leave or peacefully submit to detention: “Instead, they were victims of unprovoked, gratuitously violent, and seemingly malicious attacks by officers whose lawful mission that day was to contain violence, not to add to it.” Tomlin’s letter was sent on September 5; as of this writing, according to Minnesota and Wisconsin AP bureau chief Dave Pyle, the St. Paul Police Department has yet to respond.
VIDEO: Adam Reilly interviews Amy Goodman and Nicole Salazar about their arrests at the RNC in St. Paul
Collaring the watchdog
If the press had paid more attention to what happened to some journalists at the RNC, the resulting coverage could have been slightly awkward. After all, the fact that lists of detained journalists include both John Wise and members of Pepperspray Productions is a reminder that, in the age of blogs and YouTube, it’s almost impossible to establish clear criteria for who is and isn’t a journalist.
But it would have been worth it. Again, the most important role that journalists can play — that journalism can play — is to act as a watchdog on power. The detentions in St. Paul were a perfect opportunity to drive this point home. Instead, the subdued response sent a different message — namely, that we don’t care all that much when our watchdog role is threatened. (This was reinforced by the revelation that some Minnesota reporters were allowed to travel with police — to “embed,” essentially — and promised legal immunity, in exchange for not reporting on law enforcement’s behavior until the convention ended.)
What makes this passivity especially dangerous is that the press’s privileges are based on cultural consensus, not on the Constitution. Journalists aren’t allowed carte-blanche access into political conventions or crime scenes because of the First Amendment. We’re admitted, instead, because the citizenry expects us to act as its surrogates, and the powers that be allow us to serve that role.
By the same token, when authorities are asked to exercise restraint with working journalists — a request the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press (RCFP) made of local law enforcement prior to the RNC — whoever makes such a request is essentially requesting a favor. “We were asking for special treatment,” admits the RCFP’s Dalglish. “And I think that, under certain circumstances, that’s appropriate.”
So it is. But if agreement about the press’s privileges can evolve, surely it can devolve, too. And if, four years from now, reporters covering protests at the political conventions are told to embed or else — if they’re asked to choose, basically, between taking law enforcement’s point of view or risking law enforcement’s wrath — everyone who ignored what happened in St. Paul this past month should wonder: did I help make this possible?To read the “Don’t Quote Me” blog, go to thePhoenix.com/medialog.
So when are you CONTROLLED LEFTY OUTFITS gonna wake up?
Or was that all a SHIT FOOLEY, too?!!
WTF is with you LEFTISTS, anyway?
You FUCKIN' BLIND?