September 9, 2011

BART Cop Arrests continue in San Francisco

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 2:35 pm

Scene at BART protest Thursday in San Francisco

Kristof talks to the press

KCBS radio in San Francisco, on the evening of Thursday September 8, 2011, reported that numerous arrests were made at the No Justice No BART demonstration at the Powel station and that journalists had been among the arrestees.

Since it is newsworthy that the demonstration ended in numerous arrests and since it is unusual for journalists to be included in among the arrestees, there will be a demand for accounts of what happened there on the evening of September 8, 2011.

This will be a subjective report from a fellow who was there trying to simultaneously function as a photojournalist and a writer covering the events.

One of the habits we accumulated back in the Seventies when we did some paparazzi style photography, we would make it a point to take a moment and check to see if, when all cameras were pointing in one direction, it would make a good shot to turn around and look in the opposite direction. There is a tendency among photographers to flock to “the shot.” (We remember one Lakers game where the L. A. Times, the L. A. Herald Examiner, the Long Beach paper, and AP Photo all featured a shot of the same play.) If you can break yourself of the habit of becoming obsessed with following the crowd, you might get a distinctly different photo by turning in the other direction.

Since we have that habit, and since we don’t have a press pass, we made it a point to take a look around as the demonstration story was developing. We didn’t think it would be a good idea to be caught in a round-up if we didn’t have a press pass. There was a massive police presence on the perimeter. (We even noticed that the large contingent of San Francisco and BART police had been augmented by some officers from the Homeland Security agency this time.)

Younger journalists tend to favor getting close to the center of the activity and using a wide-angle lens to illustrate stories about a particular event. Older photographers tend to want to get an overall shot from above the edge of the crowd to have a different perspective on the images being produced.

A close up shot of one particular protester with one particularly eloquent sign may summarize the event. Conversely, if an overall shot shows that there was only two people participating in the protest and that there was a gigantic mob of media surrounding them, that tells the story a bit more accurately.

On Thursday in San Francisco, there was a contingent of journalists that indicated assignment editors around the city expected an important story to develop.

Since we have covered similar stories earlier in the year, we recognized some of the protesters as well as some of the police commanders.

At first the story seemed to be a routine demonstration one. Then we noticed that some on the gates to the station were being closed indicating that access in and out of the area was being restricted.

We decided to go outside and see if we could get some of the photos in the “overview” category.

As previously, mobs of people with video and still photo equipment were trying to get very close to the center of the activity.

Outside the station we observed more police arriving.

According to a report heard later that evening on KCBS, the police announced that it was an illegal assembly inside the building and that people and newsmen were being asked to vacate the premises. The KCBS reporter, Mike Fillipe, noted that he heard the announcement advising journalist to leave, so he did. It is unclear if the other journalist heard the announcement and chose to ignore it or if they didn’t hear it.

Outside the station, protesters and bystanders occasional chanted urging the police to “let them go” or “let her go.” We heard rumors that examples of police brutality had occurred but since we didn’t see (or get photos) such conduct that provided us only with an example of how unsubstantiated rumors play a role in such events.

There was a flurry of activity produced by a loud debate between some citizens.

Gradually the number of observers outside the station diminished and we determined that it was time to go elsewhere and get a bus back to Berkeley CA.

If journalist were actually included among the arrestees, various journalism groups such as the folks at the Columbia Journalism Review web site and the people who run the American Journalism web site will become interested in the long term implications of the arrests of working journalists and they will try to monitor a large number of accounts of what transpired in an effort to piece together an overall view of what happened and why.

If news publications such as Time and Newsweek magazines become interested in doing a story about this particular No Justice No BART protest, they will have to use photos provided by photo agencies or new services such as AP Photo and do their own stories based on police reports and the available stories from journalist who were there.

For journalism students at various institutions of higher learning in the San Francisco Bay area, Thursday’s events provided a noteworthy example of gathering valuable experience while working at the student publication level. Perhaps some will be able to do freelance articles and add valuable tearsheets to their portfolio.

For a photographer/writer who covered the Thursday event seeking material to post on several web sites, the event produced numerous adequate shots and several topics which might be expanded into columns or column items in the days to come.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist spends any time reviewing the other coverage of the event in the hopes of revisiting this particular protest in future columns, he will loose the time and opportunity to search for yet more recent news as it is happening and thereby seem to be a shoddy example of citizen journalism in action.

If, on the other hand, the World’s Laziest Journalist posts some photos and a perfunctory subjective report on Thursday’s event and then proceeds onwards to other topics and news stories, he will be open to allegations of shoddy and slapdash methodology. It’s what TV folks call the “Q and D” (Quck and Dirty) approach to journalism.

Is it any wonder that a lot of journalists are perceived by their friends to be total nihilists?

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