If you saw the picture I took of Michael Jackson in Santa Maria, then you saw the deputy who wanted me to not take pictures from where I was standing. One school of thought follows that we live in a free country and I was breaking no laws. Now, I’m no lawyer. I’m just a small town country news photographer. Okay, seriously, there were some important points to consider.
The parking lot was no longer open to the public. In the interest of public safety, parts of the parking lot had been closed off to the public and reserved for media access. Legal? I don’t know. There were many non-media persons walking through the lot. I believe the restriction was there to maintain order if individuals (or the whole crowd) got out of hand.
We are better able to do our job if we aren’t fighting with each other for prime positions. We cooperate with each other in order to best serve our viewers. The deputy didn’t seem to care if I took pictures, I just needed to snap them from another spot. If everybody decided to stop there and take pictures, we’d be potentially causing a hazard to public safety.
Now, on the flip side of the story, we don’t want to let ourselves get too comfortable with letting law enforcement tell us what to do. We will respectfully follow all laws, but there are times where reporting a story and law enforcement are going to clash. I’ve been told to stop shooting, I’ve been chased by officers on horseback, and I’ve been denied access to areas that the general public had access to. That’s been done with laws to protect my ability to cover the news.
The most important point to consider in this situation? I was taking still shots for myself, not as a representative of a legitimate news organization. I enjoy the protections the law provides for me to do my job. Until blogs are recognized as legitimate news operations, I don’t want to take that for granted.