The Nation offers advice for reporters covering protests

Thanks to The Nation for this interview with First Amendment attorney Jonathan Peters. A total of 38 reporters have been arrested at Occupy protests across the country. While most have had their charges dropped, these actions have raised legitimate concerns about whether reporters are being granted their First Amendment rights.

As Peters notes, most of the arrests were for trespass or disorderly conduct. He goes on to say that the First Amendment doesn’t provide cover for breaking the law, and even with press credentials, reporters are required to comply with legitimate orders from the police.

The question for me – not just for reporters but for citizens – is what constitutes a “legitimate” order. Some of the video from Occupy marches in New York City show troubling situations where police officers were either issuing contradictory orders, or they were intentionally encouraging people to do things such as move onto a roadway, for which they were immediately arrested.

An issue not addressed in the interview is how courts view the rights accorded to journalists and to bloggers and citizen journalists which was raised by this blog earlier. As The Nation article confirms, there is a difference between having rights in theory and in practice. Even more ambiguous is whether reporters can expect to prevail in court if they try to sue for damages.


Storify’s story of the year documents reporter arrests at Occupy events

Storify, the easy free tool that lets you aggregate postings on social media into a story, announces that this year’s Storify Story of the Year was Josh Stearns’ Storify on the plight of journalists at Occupy events. Stearns writes a blog called Groundswell.

Storify makes it particularly easy to search for and aggregate tweets and YouTube videos in ways that make the whole seem larger than the sum of the parts with just a few added words.

When I first played with this tool, it seemed limited. But then I challenged my advanced reporting class to Storify the sad tale of alleged child rape at the hands of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky. Not only did my students rise to the occasion and assemble coherent narratives, but many of their accounts were more coherent, concise and riveting than professional pieces. Lacing stories with relevant treats adds an immediacy and intimacy that makes this tool a must. Expect to see more it here now that this award reminds me that people can do stellar work efficiently with the new tools coming our way.

Journalists denied access to Zuccotti Park raid

It seems appropriate to launch Occupy Journalism on this day after the New York Police Department conducted an overnight raid to remove the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.

Firedoglake reports that police prevented journalists from seeing what was happening. (The use of pepper spray and batons makes the city look bad.) A Mother Jones reporter was able to sneak in and see the action before being dragged away. FDL reports that at least five reporters were arrested. A Village Voice reporter told officers she was a journalist, to which one reportedly replied, “Not tonight.”

Predictably, Fox News’ Fox and Friends ran the tagline “Good Riddance.”

The New York Times, also predictably, spent most of the article regurgitating Mayor Bloomberg’s rationale that the police action was taken for health and safety reasons, and that people should be reassured that “New York City is the city where you can come and express yourself.” Which leads me to suggest that there is a bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy while you’re at it.

If burning a flag is protected under the First Amendment as symbolic political speech, then pitching a tent to protest Wall Street’s looting of the economy certainly qualifies.

On the Al-Jazeera English site, blogger Danny Schechter notes you can’t evict an idea.

The Guardian had the good taste not to quote Mayor Bloomberg’s nonsensical propaganda, but instead noted that New York City councilman Ydanis Rodríguez was among the roughly 200 people arrested during the overnight raid.