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Mizzou faculty and protesters refuse coverage from student journalists

by on November 10, 2015

Recently the University of Missouri has been in the media’s spotlight following a racial incident that led to protests by black students on campus. Many black student groups spoke up against the racial slurs that they say are common on the predominately white campus, and over 30 Mizzou football players refused to play until the University’s President Tim Wolfe was removed. Many major publications covered these events, but student journalists at Mizzou also attempted to document what was happening on their campus.

A video went viral yesterday when a professor at the University appeared to be assaulting a student reporter, Tim Tai, during a protest. She is seen on camera getting very physical with Tai and yelling at him for taking pictures of the protest, insisting that someone removes him. She is heard saying, “help me get this reporter out of here” and “I need some muscle.”

Tai was documenting a public protest and was reporting newsworthy content, so it was extremely unethical for the professor to have reacted in this way. Ironically, the professor, Dr. Melissa Click, is a member of the Communications department at Mizzou, where she teaches Mass Media. Click got her M.A. in Communication, Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies, and Ph. D. in Communication all at UMass Amherst. With this type of an educational background it is extremely surprising that she reacted in this way. As a student journalist, Tai had every right to be there and report the events.

Furthermore, it was apparent on videos and social media posts that student protesters were resisting the news coverage as well. It seems contradicting that the students wanted to hold a public protest but did not want it to be reported to the public. If the student protesters felt so strongly about keeping it out of the news then they should have planned for it to be held in a private space, rather than outside on public property.

For a highly renowned journalism school it is shocking that both the students and faculty would react so negatively toward to the attention it received from journalists. Rather than believing that making headlines would help to spread their message, they wanted to suppress it into a private matter. And now, this form of resistance is making headlines, but for reasons that are not so admirable.

 

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3 Comments
  1. Emily Johnson permalink

    Recently, Anita Sarkeesian gave a free public talk at UMass Amherst, but in her contract, she asked that no audience members photograph or film her, because of death and rape threats made against her. I do not want to belittle or demean the constant and persistent harassment and cyber bullying
    Sarkeesian has received in the past and still faces.

    She has often spoken out against strangers who have photographed her in public without her consent. Obviously this is an entirely different context, and her talk is newsworthy. At a public talk funded by a public university, it is anyone’s right to photograph or film the talk and the speaker. Like Tai, whom you mention was removed after he attempted to document the public campus protests, student journalists had every right to document the talk.

    I wonder if she does not allow photography, because she gives university talks so frequently, and her talks may be a replica of one another.

    Student journalism and student activism go hand-in-hand. Despite an unfinished degree and less experience, a student journalist has the qualifications to report news – whether it be a public talk or a protest of the racial discourse of the community. In Tai’s case, he, knowing the campus and being a student among the age-group of those affected, would understand how to report the story naturally.

  2. josephcurrier permalink

    I was obviously, as any journalism student or anyone who has even some interest in journalism would be, viscerally shocked at the reaction to the media in the video that went viral. The students were obviously irrational and have no legal leg to stand on. Their lack of understanding of the media’s rights and the first amendment was disappointing. I think that Dr. Melissa Click deserves to be fired for seemingly threatening a student in her position of authority. But I think it is important to at least attempt to understand why the students felt this way instead of just being outraged as anyone would be.

    There is a distrust of the media that exists even if it is not usually particularly rational. The media should be a tool for these protests. Without the media it is just an internal issue. But the protestors were still distrusting and didn’t want the media there. I assume that is at least in part to the fact that it is annoying to have a camera pointed at everything you’re doing. But the distrust of the media is also a factor that I don’t understand but must be willing to recognize. I think it is possible that bad journalism and unethical media members have tainted the view of journalists and the media in the minds of these people. The university isn’t too far from Ferguson where Michael Brown was shot dead. Everyone saw how some media outlets portrayed him as a thug who was on some level deserving of his murder. People are fearful of that being done to them. They see the media as agents of the powerful instead of a tool for the oppressed.

    That doesn’t make how protestors acted right or any less disturbing. But it is something that we must consider as journalists or aspiring journalists. We must realize this in any of our interactions with the general public. There are people out there who distrust us. There are people that don’t want to talk to us and wish we weren’t there. Journalists is a broad term. The media is a broad industry. There are unethical journalists and media members who spoil things for the rest of us. It isn’t on the public to give us what we want out of them. But it is important that they treat us with respect.

    • josephcurrier permalink

      Obviously not meant to imply that you don’t consider these things but just providing some perspective.

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