Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rage against the machine

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.


Terri said...

Okay, I think it's "okay" to tell you where to stand - certainly in the best interest of public safety (I still don't love the idea in a public space but I without-a-doubt understand it) what I had a problem with, or wanted more clarity on - which you indeed provided - was, I thought the "issue" might have been about WHAT (or as in this case, "Who") you were taking a picture of. Cause to me that's pretty open territory and if there's one person on the face of the earth who's BEGGING to have his picture ), it's Michael Jackson - in my opinion of course. Thanks for taking the time to clarify. You must be busy today. My busy days were last week settting up airplanes and jets for today. As of Friday afternoon there were only two airplanes I know of available in the state and both are in CRQ (Carlsbad). A tiny little twin engine Piper Aztec and a big, expensive Citation VII. The Emmy's of course and up north are the Reno Air Races. Hopefully you can stay out of trouble and get some excellent shots. Hopefully it's easy to do both.

I used to have a press pass. Yep, I got it when I went to Private Detective school about 9 or 10 years ago. I never renewed it - I had the option of submitting a piece of writing, paying a fee and renewing it every year. I had press parking too which could be really handy!

dkgoodman said...

I just read a chilling account (not sure how factual) about a "small town country reporter" for a radio station who got caught in one of the police sweeps at the Republican National Convention. It worries me when our civil liberties seem to be eroding.

The CBS document flap also interests me. Now the mainstream media has a check and balance of its own: the world of bloggers. You're one of those journalists who live in both worlds. I'm glad you're one of the good guys. :) Thanks.

dkgoodman said...

Silly me, I left out the link. The Manhattan roundup story is here. I read it with a grain of salt, considering it's hosted on a hacker site, but it had the ring of truth to it. One verbal image that sticks in my mind is how the police used orange netting to trap an entire crowd by closing off the ends of the street, like netting a school of fish.

magz said...

almost more like a ghost in the machine bry... (bri? bry? clarify me please, i been using both or either)
I thought that bloggin became considered media when bloggers were subsidized at the DNC! hmmmm... I'm countin on us gainin some 'qualififactions' this year, so's I can talk SOMEBODY into sponsoring my projected 'blog-bash' here next year...more later.

Michelle said...

Nor am i a lawyer, however as a one who works in the "system" i would think that this was done for all the reasons Bryan mentioned and also the main reason would be Justice. A fair trial if you will.Now i am noooooooooooooooo fan of Jackson ( i used to be before he changed colors..LOL..and went strange..his music was sooo good...what a waste)...but given who he is, what he is, the man/thing is entitled to due process. I only hope that the police take as much care in keeping the fans of wacko jacko under control too.

Terri said...

Michelle, I'm curious, I'm not sure I see the connection between snapping a photo and how that would interfere with justice or a fair trial. Especially since it seems, by Franks explanation, that there was no issue necessarily with taking the picture, only that he was standing in a high traffic area that was or at least had the potential to create a "clog" if he stopped for long. I noticed your site is dedicated to the subject of justice and your studying criminal justice so it made me even more curious to hear your thoughts on how the two connect. How you feel the photo Frank posted, that he took, how that would or could interfere with a fair trial? btw, I'm with you in regards to MJ. I was a Jackson fan - of the music - not necessarily the person, for many years. I think around the time he was "Bad" or Billy Jean....he'd had some plastic surgery but didn't look "freakish." Why couldn't he just leave well enough alone? And, he still doesn't look white. He looks sort of "gray!"

beFrank said...

Michelle- Thanks for making that point. Justice is the goal and with the circus atmosphere of a high profile celebrity trial, it is difficult sometimes to remember that.

Magz- I will change it to whatever you like. I think "be" is my informal favorite, but as long as I can tell who you're talking to, I'm alright.

Michelle said...

Hi Terri :), yes i was a fan in that era too!! So talented..i could cry when i see what he has become and without going into too much detail, i place much of the blame on MJ's father.

OK, as far as justice goes, the so called system says we are all entitled to "due process of the law". A right to a fair trial, a right to a trial with a jury,a right to legal counsel...yada yada. Also included is all the who ha by the etc......believing that these groups may swing opinons one way or another.....which is why they moved the circus to Santa Maria. Now as you said Terri....the distance thing is a contensious issue and for the life of me i have no idea on the legalities of the distances etc. I still think it is an issue of justice. I also think we as the public are entitled to see what's happening there. MJ like any high profile person be it sportsman or musicman/woman have a duty as role models for our kids, therfore Bryan should be allowed to report on it.........from a distance...LOL!!!!

Terri said...

Personally I think a person's financial status or the ability to obtain a high profile attorney has much more to do with the outcome of a trial or the right of a fair trial, than anything the media does. Of course I guess they go hand in hand don't they? The high profile attorneys aren't necessarily masters in the law but are more masters in manipulating the public through the media. I personally believe that's their greatest skill. Most likely they aren't "smarter" than another less known attorney - they aren't the "best" necessarily - at least not the best in regards to the law - but they are the best in manipulation of the public via the media! We've seen, in the past few weeks, MJ on top a car dancing and twirling with an umbrella - so I didn't understand how a picture just showing him walking into a courthouse could be construed as manipulation of the justice system or as a compromise in any way. Thanks for your thoughts!!