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?

September 6, 2011

Is 1968 really over?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:03 pm


File photo of August arrests in San Francisco.

New protesters call attention to old issues at People’s Park in Berkeley CA.

As the ninth month of the year begins, here are a few items that the columnist considers important cultural tidbits: an unpopular Democratic President is struggling to get renominated, a bumper sticker being sold on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley asks: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?,” there is an ongoing protest at People’s Park, the Freedom of Speech issue is spawning arrests, a new book by Shel Silverstein is due out this month, the Playboy Club (and “the bunny slouch”?) will be featured in a new TV series, and Pan Am will get tons of free publicity from a new fall TV series (perhaps based on the book “Coffee, Tea, or me?”?), so with out looking at a calendar can you please say what year is this? British disk jockey Danny Baker recently proclaimed that this year is 1968 and he might be right.

The longer Obama is President the easier it becomes for a pundit to make clever and perceptive comments; all that’s needed is a great memory. A case in point would be pollution and global warming. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theory scientist to have a major emotional reaction to a bit of popular American culture from 1970. Who can watch the Iron Eyes Cody Public Service Announcement and not get the point?

Who can listen to “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash’s 1971 hit that covered just about all of today’s problems, and not find it moving?

For people living in Berkeley and facing the task of preparing to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s speech from the top of a police car, the recent No Justice No BART protests and arrests about the Freedom of Speech issue has a distinct “been there done that” aspect.

People’s Park is back in the news. Activists are staging a protest. They assert that the University of California in Berkeley is using incremental limitations as a way of trying to end the use of the area known as People’s Park as a campsite for homeless people. Activists inform journalists that efforts are being made to end the program to feed the homeless in the park. Similar protests in 1969 were suspended after the Park and the protests, which resulted in the death of James Richter, became national news stories.

Peace is still the objective for Peaceniks only the name of the war has changed.

Mario Savio objected to high tuition fees in the Sixties and asserted that students had a right to express their opinions. Two years ago students were holding demonstrations at UCB to draw attention to increases in tuition costs.

Over the Labor Day weekend, a march by the United Farm Workers reached Sacramento where they hoped to deliver their list of grievances and goals to the governor of California.

For a columnist who made futile efforts to get to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, this year’s issues and protests have a strong déjà vu aspect to them. One ingredient that is missing from attempts to photograph and write about this year’s events is an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm.

Scrambling around the San Francisco Bay area to get photos at a benefit for the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance, People’s Park and the various No Justice No BART protests, it is obvious that getting a by-line in the Berkeley Barb is a goal that will never be accomplished.

In one day, can one reporter photographer cover a nine hour event at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, a planned new No Justice No BART event in San Francisco, and check in with the protest in People’s Park? Obviously we’ll have to postpone plans to do a round-up column on the current spate of items concerned with the quality of the judicial branch of government in the USA today. We’re working on developing other columns such as one that compares the Republican philosophy to that of the Apaches and play with the irony that some famous Republicans have been accused of kidnapping Geronimo’s skull.

We’ll try to cover the Sunday event at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on September 11. We’ll monitor the People’s Park protest. We’ll do updates on the No Justice No BART protests. Rather than struggling with the knack of loading Tri-X film on the Nikkor reels, we’ll be struggling to learn the new html skills to move our photojournalism into the digital era, but we will also be aware of certain other limitations on our efforts.

Back in 1968, the World’s Laziest Journalist used to annoy the snot out of some close friends by introducing cultural comments and insights with the phrase “Back in 1968.” We don’t bug them with that shtick anymore because a two of the folks who were most upset with it, have “gone to the happy hunting grounds.”

In the April 1965 issue of Cavalier magazine, Paul Krassner wrote: “There was, of course, one Berkeley administration official who mustered up his oversimplification gland and labeled the protest there as not much more than a ‘civil rights panty raid.’”

Krassner also wrote: “There is an Establishment (translate: in-power) point of view about events such as these – usually predictable but nevertheless in a state of limited flux – and the mass media serve as vehicles for and reflections of the Establishment point of view.” What if Rupert Murdoch is the Establishment?

Now the disk jockey will give some Berkeley musicians a bit of exposure by playing the “Fixing to Die” rag, “Run through the Jungle,” and “Long as I can see the Light.” We have to go and try to buy a copy of Eye magazine. Have a “hella-groovy” type week.

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