African-American journalist Terrell Jermaine Starr says Tim Tai, the Mizzou photographer manhandled by protesters, had a right to cover the demonstration, but … well, not really. From his WaPo op-ed:
We in the media have something important to learn from this unfortunate exchange. The protesters had a legitimate gripe: The black community distrusts the news media because it has failed to cover black pain fairly.
Wait, who gets to decide that the First Amendment doesn’t apply because people in a public space don’t like the way the press has covered their “pain”? More Starr:
These student protesters were not a government entity stonewalling access to public information or a public official hiding from media questions. They were young people trying to create a safe space from not only the racism they encounter on campus, but the insensitivity they encounter in the news media. In the outsized conversation that erupted about First-Amendment rights, journalists drowned out the very message of the students Tai was covering.
Establishing a “safe space” was about much more than denying the media access; it was about securing a rare space where their blackness could not be violated. Yes, the hunger strike, the safe space and other student demonstrations were protests, and protests should be covered. But what was fueling those protests was black pain. In most circumstances, when covering people who are in pain, journalists offer extra space and empathy. But that didn’t happen in this case; these young people weren’t treated as hurting victims.
Oh, for freak’s sake, really? You are a journalist and you believe that? You believe that journalists have to sympathize with the people they cover in order to have the right to cover them? College students who allegedly heard ugly words as “hurting victims”? The mind boggles.
Tell you what, Terrell Jermaine Starr. You write about Russia. Here’s one of your pieces, from the Kyiv Post, headlined, “How The West Can Stand Up To Putin”. If you show up in Russia to cover a protest, and you are surrounded by Russian citizens who refuse to let you do your job because you haven’t covered Russian “pain” fairly, and you haven’t treated Russians as “hurting victims,” don’t you dare whine about it.
The willingness of students, professors, and now a professional journalist, to support and even demand censorship (or self-censorship) is one of the more astonishing and depressing aspects of this mess.