Demonstrations this month at the University of Missouri led to the resignation of University System President Tim Wolfe. But the conduct of some protesters also became part of the story when they tried to muscle out reporters who were there to cover the event.
Shop Talk panelist Jonathan Ahl said those who tried to impede reporters were completely wrong.
But he also said it’s important to step back and ask why people who are engaged in civil protests feel the need to be protected from the media. Ahl said today’s college students have come to consider “the media” to include not just established outlets but also bloggers who make inflammatory comments and shock journalists who alter video to support their agenda. He said that might explain why the Missouri students felt they needed a “safe space” from the media.
Panelist Rich Egger praised student photographer Tim Tai, who kept his cool and tried to explain the First Amendment to protesters even as they bullied him and tried to drive him away.
Egger also pointed out the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s benefited from news coverage. Without that coverage, many Americans might have continued ignoring the unjust treatment of African-Americans and civil rights workers in the south.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton said the protests at Missouri were held in a public space so anyone should have been able to walk up to see what was going on. She considered the “safe space” concept ridiculous and said protesters should have been prepared to defend their cause with free speech.