It is bound to happen; hostility or violence toward journalists

COMMENTARY

Editor’s Note: Friday, August 3, 2018 – “White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: The White House is not your property nor President Trump’s, it is the people’s house. Under the U.S. Constitution you both work for the citizens of the United States. Not answering CNN’s request to say the press is NOT the “enemy of the people” shows that it may be more about you & Trump and less about the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. – Sharon Dunten

Editor’s Note: On August 2, 2018, CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders about Ivanka Trump’s statement that she said she believes the press is not the enemy of the people. He continued to say that it would be a good thing for Sanders to say at this White House briefing that the press is not the enemy of the people. She wouldn’t say it. She said the President has made his position known.

By Sharon Dunten, SPJ Region 3 Assistant Regional Director, editor of SizingUpTheSouth.com

Is it bound to happen again? Violence against journalists. Unfortunately, it is probable. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but then again, I don’t want us to stick our heads in the ground either.

Are you as a reporter appalled by what is happening overseas with murders and the jailing of journalists that is reported by Reporters Without Borders? Absolutely. 

Remember, here in the U.S., Annapolis’ Capital Gazettes newsroom just buried their dead.

Capital Gazette journalists killed

Five journalists and staff members were killed and others injured at the Annapolis Capital Gazette newspaper on June 28, 2018. 

Is it inconceivable that something so ugly could happen in the United States? Or are journalists and newsrooms just naive? Are we just overreacting?

On the other hand …

The embers of the hate against the media might be sparked with something as a simple propaganda message or statement against journalists in an underhanded remark at a government meeting. Yes, some officials are using government meetings to lecture and scold the media as part of a business agenda, whether it was planned or an impromptu, impulsive battering of the press in the room.

“He accused the press of losing a business opportunity for the community. He said it was the media’s fault because he (county or city) lost money because the media reported the crime in the area he wanted to develop. And again, this was at a government meeting. No one questioned the city’s or community’s responsibility for the crime in the area. It was the media’s fault.”

I recently viewed a video of a South Carolina municipal official lecturing members of the media at a legitimate community meeting. He accused the press of losing a business opportunity for the community. He said it was the media’s fault because he (county or city) lost money because the media reported the crime in the area he wanted to develop. And again, this was at a government meeting. No one questioned the city’s or community’s responsibility for the crime in the area. It was the media’s fault.

Next, he said that in the South Carolina area where he lives the TV stations are proving grounds for young journalists and they really have no investment in his community. Clueless on how hard these journalists work and the long hours they endure, he discounts the young reporters and further makes remarks that might insinuate these journalists maybe producing or reporting substandard journalism.

Violence against journalists 2

Should the press remain silent when there is news to be reported?

The other members of the government council in the room nervously shift in their seats. But no one stops him. No one says that it is inappropriate to take the time at a meeting to deface the press. Is their own silence a statement of agreement with this obnoxious abuse of the tax payer’s time at an official government meeting? Couldn’t he had made these remarks after the meeting? Or did he really plan this grandstanding because he has many members of the general public present? 

The reporter who shared the video of the disgruntled official remains quiet during and after the official’s speech but has commented to other journalists that he/she grows weary of the banter that has become common at official meetings.

Yes, these kind of comments from officials have been made behind closed doors for decades and is common to be whispered under the breath by complainers. But these comments are now made aloud and sometimes abruptly at official government meetings, or even deliberately planned behind closed doors, like in Paint Rick, Alabama, to ban press’ presence all together. 

“Members of the media: i.e. newspaper, television, radio, etc. will not be allowed without prior approval from the council majority. When asking for approval you must present valid reason/justification for the media to attend.” – Paint Rock, Alabama, council meeting guidelines.

Has the current president given credence to trash talk about the media even at official government meetings? Probably. Do these governmental officials feel they have been given permission by the President and the current political atmosphere to cross a line and condemn a productive group in their community as “enemies of the people?” Apparently, yes.

Trump speaking

Trump continues to call the press “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” even though he took an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution which includes the First Amendment.

Should the media be concerned? Certainly.

Members of the media: Be conscious of your personal safety and the possibility of aggressive people who may be incapable of controlling their prejudices and their emotions in a civilized way. 

Report abuse and aggressiveness to your supervisors and take all threats seriously.

Do you your job and history will show that you were honorable to the community and the profession you served. In the meantime, take extra care.

 

Sharon Dunten mug

Sharon Dunten

– Sharon Dunten is editor of SizingUpTheSouth.com and is the SPJ Region 3 Assistant Regional Director. She is a freelance journalist/photojournalist at Dunten Media Services LLC. sdunten.spjregion3@gmail.com

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