Wednesday, November 11, 2015

University of Missouri's Press Problem

By now, we've all seen it.  I won't get into my personal beliefs on what's happening in Missouri...that's for a different blog!

If you've been away, let me break it down.  Some huge controversy broke out at the University of Missouri, racism is involved, students started protesting, hunger strikes broke out, nobody really paid much attention...until, of course, the football team decided to go on strike if results weren't achieved.  That's as quick of a breakdown as you'll ever see on this issue.

The more concerning part for us photographers is the video above.  This lady, asking for muscle, physically restraining a photojournalist from covering part of this event, is my concern, and here's why:

1. The photojournalist, is a student photojournalist, Tim Tai(, hired by ESPN to cover the ordeal.  Good on him!  Any photojournalist would be proud to put ESPN on their list of clients, and, by judging his work, he is quite the photographer.  The school should have been more than happy to rally around him and support his accomplishments, instead of what they did.

2.  The lady.  This lady is a professor.  Let me repeat that.  This lady, is not just a lady...she's a professor.  Not only is she a professor, she's a professor in the communications department.  Let me repeat that...she's a professor in the COMMUNICATIONS department.  If anyone is supposed to know better, and behave in a more suitable manner, it's not even a is a MUST.  She cannot in good conscience behave in this manner and continue to carry out her professorial duties.  She incited a crowd of students to get physical and force Tai out of their area.  Can you just imagine if someone had a weapon?  How much worse could this have been?

3.  The law, or rather, the complete ignorance of it.  The campus is public property.  Anybody has the right to stand there, as long as they're not posing an immediate threat to anyone else.  For all intents and purposes, its as if you were to go outside and stand on a public sidewalk.  The protesters, seemingly almost all college students, who should know this, seem to not care.  Bolstered by a professor and other staff/faculty members, the crowd grows even more bold.  That's one part; the second part is Tai's right.  As a photojournalist, hired by a news agency, he has every right to stand, and walk wherever he chose to cover this event.  Again, the crowd, in complete ignorance of the law, blurt out outlandish comments, threaten him with police intervention, seemingly showing no concern that Tai is in complete compliance of the law, again, backed up by a professor that provokes these types of actions.

***Mind you, this is at The University of Missouri, home of America's largest and oldest journalism school.***

The professor, Melissa Click, apparently has already resigned her appointment, but I don't think that is enough.  I think the University of Missouri needs to put a special assembly together, and turn this around, create a moment of healing and proper education, to make sure this never happens again.

More importantly, we, as photographers and artist must stand by Tai's side, and demand further actions be taken to make sure our rights as photojournalist, artist, and press personnel are protected.  We cannot, as a community, allow this kind of erosion of our rights to continue.

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