Alexander Howard, the Senior Editor for Technology and Society for the Huffington Post, claimed that Black Lives Matter’s threatening actions toward a journalist yesterday made sense because the Media portrays them in “negative ways.”
Yesterday, Tim Tai, a freelance photojournalist for ESPN, was repeatedly yelled at, threatened, and physically moved while taking video of a protest at the University of Missouri. Assistant Professor Melissa Click was also captured in the video saying “I need some muscle” so that she could remove Tai from the protest.
What Mr. Tai did was perfectly legal. However, Howard writes for the Huffington Post that you can’t blame Black Lives Matter or Professor Click for their actions. He doesn’t outright excuse what they did, but Howard does say it makes sense.
“Given the irresponsible, negative ways that #BlackLivesMatter activists have been portrayed in the media this fall,” he writes, “it’s not hard to see why these college students would have been suspicious or even actively hostile to national media coverage.”
The fact of the matter is that “we can’t simply divorce the history of how U.S. media have depicted minorities from the distrust of college activists today. Consider, for instance, how differently U.S. media has portrayed white suspects in shootings and black victims.”
Journalists, like Tai, shouldn’t just publish whatever they capture, because “the ethics code from the Society for Professional Journalists includes a section on minimizing potential harms to the subjects of stories, not just sources.”
Not only that, but maybe Mr. Tai should have thought twice about publishing what he recorded for another reason. “Journalists need to be able to be present at public protests in public spaces to bear witness,” Mr. Howard writes, “but that doesn’t mean that they must publish everything they see or hear. Now that 68 percent of Americans use smartphones, we also share a responsibility to respect the privacy of others.”
Anyone witnessing protests needs to realize, Howard continues, that “publishing a photo or video online should not only have public interest value but balance potential harms against the long-term consequences of recording and publishing.
“I hope that in the days and month to come, students, staff and faculty at more universities around the country find ways to support both sides of that equation,” he concludes.