Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’


Get the Story Even in ‘Media Free’ Zones

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr Creative Commons

Despite a long history of protesters craving the attention of journalists, those calling for change on campuses across the U.S. are now attempting to ban media access and coverage of their campaigns.

Most recently, The Republican in Springfield, Massachusetts, quoted a sit-in organizer at nearby Smith College as saying journalists may only cover their protest if they “participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color.”

While I could spend this post numerating reasons why protesters and colleges should allow media access to their gatherings, I’ll simply recommend that they read Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff’s The Race Beat, which details the crucial role of responsible journalism during the civil rights era.

Instead, this post is directed at the journalists who are faced with signs and people turning them away at protests and gatherings – which are not uncommon occurrences.

The first step is to lobby for access. Lobbying may require talking to several people and being creative. In some cases, there are legal actions that permit journalists to enter or observe locations, but that’s outside my proverbial wheelhouse.

If journalists can’t gain access, it’s important for that information to be explained in whatever story eventually emerges from the reporting. The story should detail who blocked access and why. All information should be attributed to a source.

Additionally, journalists may still be able to report on the protests through other channels. For example, what are the thoughts and comments of those who are the object of the protesters’ demands? Who is allowed in the protest or gathering space and why? What can people elsewhere say about the protests and gatherings? Do other students know what is going on inside the space?

Even though they are likely aggravated, journalists should also make sure their reporting is fair and balanced. Thorough, ethical and responsible reporting is always the best defense and character reference for journalists.

At the end of the day, journalists still need to be responsible and dogged in their reporting – even in the face of opposition.


Andrew M. Seaman is chair of SPJ‘s ethics committee.

No Excuse for Assaulting, Threatening Journalists at University of Missouri

Screen capture from video showing woman assaulting and threatening journalists are the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Screen capture from video showing woman assaulting and threatening journalists at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

If there is any place in the U.S. that should support the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Society’s Code of Ethics, it’s the campus of the nation’s oldest journalism school. Unfortunately, protesters and some faculty members at the University of Missouri in Columbia disagree.

Students linked arms to keep journalists — namely Tim Tai — from other students protesting the school’s administration and its lack of response to ongoing discrimination on campus, according to Slate. To make matters worse, professors — supposedly from the university’s communications school — blocked and threatened student reporters from covering their own campus.

After assaulting a reporter’s camera, a red-headed woman identified by media outlets as a communications professor, walks toward a group of protesters and asks for “some muscle over here” to remove Mark Schierbecker, who identified himself as a reporter and uploaded the video to YouTube.

There is no explanation and no excuse for professors – whether they teach communications or physics – to assault and physically threaten students. No one deserves that treatment – especially journalists trying to tell protesters’ stories. Whoever assaulted and threatened the student journalist should be ashamed and held accountable for their actions.

The student journalists in the video, on the other hand, should be commended for the responsible behavior throughout a clearly evolving and intense situation.

The bottom line is that the same First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects the freedom of assembly also guarantees the freedom of the press.


Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society’s ethics committee.

The Intersection of Communication History

The bust of Walter Cronkite greets visitors to the Walter Cronkite Memorial at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The bust of Walter Cronkite greets visitors to the Walter Cronkite Memorial at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The city of St. Joseph is about a 40-minute drive north of Kansas City in Missouri. The city hugs the banks of the Missouri River and is blanketed with stately buildings that give any visitor the sense that it’s an intersection of history.

I visited St. Joseph earlier this month to speak at a conference on media ethics and integrity held at Missouri Western State University. The conference was held in honor of the late Walter Cronkite, the famed broadcaster and St. Joseph native.

In addition to being the place of Cronkite’s birth, St. Joseph is also the location where riders began their journey for the Pony Express. Serendipitously, in my opinion, the city gave birth to two of history’s most storied communication figures.

A wall of Walter Cronkite's most famous broadcasts is displayed at the Walter Cronkite Memorial at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Missouri.

A wall of Walter Cronkite’s most famous broadcasts is displayed at the Walter Cronkite Memorial at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Cronkite Memorial, which houses artifacts from the journalist’s life, housed the conference. Clips from his most famous broadcasts, caricatures and multimedia presentations are displayed on the walls.

A copy of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette issue carried by the first Pony Express riders hangs in the Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

A copy of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette issue carried by the first Pony Express riders hangs in the Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. (Click to Enlarge)

Downtown in St. Joseph, the Pony Express National Museum chronicles the detailed history of the business that connected communications between Midwestern and Western U.S. states in record time.

As I walked through the Cronkite Memorial and the Pony Express National Museum, my mind resonated with what I often say about journalism ethics: technology may change but principles remain unchanged.

The first Pony Express riders carried a copy of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette to California in 10 days. On the other hand, Cronkite’s image and voice instantaneously beamed into the homes of millions of Americans. Yet, both aimed to responsibly deliver accurate information.

Please stay tuned for another blog post about the conference and (possible video) of the panel featuring ONA, RTDNA and SPJ representatives.

Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ