Journalists stick to sidelines but sometimes get thrown into heat of stories
Write to the Point
One of the first things you learn as a reporter is not getting directly involved with the story you are covering.
This is easy, especially when it comes to sports.
Other than taking a couple of steps into the end zone in hopes of snapping a few photos of a touchdown — as long as one of the referees isn’t screaming at me or a group of 22 football players are running in my direction — we tend to stick to the sidelines or the warm comfort of the press box.
When we’re covering a story — particularly an event — we mainly observe and ask questions.
We don’t go looking for trouble, but that doesn’t mean the action stays away from us. Sometimes we’re in the thick of a story without realizing it.
Several of my journalist friends have been keeping up with the riots in Ferguson, Mo.
What started as a cry for justice — after police refused to release the name of an officer who shot an unarmed African American 18-year-old — turned into a full-scale riot. The police have released the name of the shooter and the Missouri National Guard has come to work with the Missouri State Patrol to quell looting and riots.
But it seems that no one is above being arrested during times of chaos, not even journalists.
On Aug. 13, police took reporters Wesley Lowery, of The Washington Post, and Ryan Reilly, of The Huffington Post, into custody at a McDonald’s after telling them to stop recording events.
In one account, Lowery said officers threw him into a soda fountain.
Other reporters who have been arrested in Ferguson include Robert Klemko, of Sports Illustrated; Neil Munshi, of Financial Times, and Rob Crilly, of the Telegraph.
Some folks support Lowery, Reilly and other journalists in Ferguson, saying police have no right to order them around because they are protected by the First Amendment — particularly the part of the amendment that protects the right of individuals to “express themselves through publication and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government.”
Others have said the journalists shouldn’t be there and that they were using their left-winged agenda to “make the protesters look good.”
Although there are probably some reporters whose intentions were to get into confrontations with the police in hopes of getting their names out there, the majority of the journalists in Ferguson just want to report the news and shed some light on the situation. Ferguson residents might have family members in other parts of the country who rely on the media to know if their loved ones are still OK.
Sometimes being thrown into the action costs a reporter his or her life.
Reporters and photographers on the front lines of a major military conflict in the Middle East will sometimes get injured or killed in an explosion.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 70 reporters were killed in 2013 — 29 of which were killed while covering the civil war in Syria and 10 in Iraq. So far, 29 have been killed in 2014.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria also known as the militant group ISIS, announced they had killed American photojournalist James Foley, who went missing in Syria back in November 2012. The authenticity of the video depicting the killing has not been verified by the Intelligency Community.
Did these journalists know the risks of being on the front lines?
Of course, but their intentions were not to get in the middle of the conflict in hopes of making a name for themselves. They were doing their job of reporting to keep the world informed of the latest information on events happening in the region.
When it comes to writing stories, the last thing we want is to hog the spotlight from the people, events and issues we’re trying to put it on.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.