By Sarah Stubbs
Newsflash: When the media is covering the protest or movement you’re a part of, they are giving you the coverage and media attention you should want to draw focus to your cause. Why in the world would you push them away?
For those who haven’t paid attention to the news this week, the University of Missouri has been under extreme scrutiny as racial tensions stay high on campus. Mizzou’s football team is what really made in impact in the handling of these issues. According to ABC News, almost three ozen football players said they wouldn’t play or practice until the then president, Tim Wolfe, stepped down. They weren’t pleased with how he was handling racial allegations.
The national attention the football boycott gained was enough for the president and University chancellor to step down. Now, students are getting back to old-school activism reminiscent of the various Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s — some are camping out on campus, others gather during the day chanting and pushing signs into the air.
What seemed like a productive, meaningful effort to draw attention to the racist nature of Mizzou and the desire to have the allegations fully addressed quickly turned unproductive when several students and a faculty member — an assistant professor of mass media, to be exact — bullied and pushed away a national news photographer.
In a viral video that really took off on Tuesday, Nov. 10, a photojournalist was trying to make his way through the crowd of protestors to take photos. Protestors claimed he was being insensitive and didn’t have the right to take their photos, to which the journalist replied that it was his first amendment right to be on campus and taking pictures as much as it is theirs. He then explained how he is affiliated with a national news organization and practices journalism to document history.
Although the protestors were extremely rude to him, he remained tactful in his responses.
To make matters worse, when the reporter tried to stand his ground, protestors starting walking toward him and physically pushing him out of their space. One girl yelled, “It’s our right to walk forward.”
Just after that, a professor of mass media yelled that she needed some muscle to get that reporter out of there.
The part that baffles me about this incident the most is that the students supposedly had a problem with their photographs being taken by the media, yet everyone had their smartphones out recording their own photos and video that were most likely shared on social media. Why is it OK to informally document the protests, but not professionally?
I suppose that maybe this is due to my generation’s lack of experience with protests and activism in general. I was excited to see the activism surrounding these events, but seeing how they pushed the media away when they could have utilized them to help tell their stories, I’m now a little disappointed.
When I covered a protest in downtown Akron this summer against First Energy, every protestor was eager to talk to me because they were so passionate about being there that day.
Why were these students so quick to get defensive and assume that the media wasn’t “on their side”? I don’t know. But thankfully, some are starting to see the light.
Some protestors began to take down anti-media signs and pass out PSAs informing students that the media is important to tell their story.
I hope that this instance gains enough attention from others my age so that we as a nation can start to rebuild and sustain some trust in the media. What if Ferguson was covered just by protestors with their smart phones? We need journalists who know how to professionally and objectively tell a story from all angles.
And to Mizzou students (and professors), please let journalists do their jobs. Believe me, it’s a service to the community and the country and it will only help your protest efforts in the long run.