Friday, August 22, 2014

Journalist Leaves Ferguson, Disgusted with His Colleagues

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

While I can appreciate Ryan Schuessler's beef with his colleagues’ narcissism, his report would have been much more valuable had he talked about what the media operatives on the ground were talking about, in terms of how they were shaping their propaganda items.

I Will Not be Returning to Ferguson
By Ryan Schuessler
August 21, 2014

I had been on the ground helping Al Jazeera America** cover the protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., since this all started last week. After what I saw last night, I will not be returning. The behavior and number of journalists there is so appalling, that I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of the spectacle.

**A clarification edit: I am not a full-time employee of any Al Jazeera branch or network. I am a freelance journalist who contributes to several media platforms.
Things I’ve seen:

-Cameramen yelling at residents in public meetings for standing in way of their cameras
-Cameramen yelling at community leaders for stepping away from podium microphones to better talk to residents
-TV crews making small talk and laughing at the spot where Mike Brown was killed, as residents prayed, mourned
-A TV crew of a to-be-left-unnamed major cable network taking pieces out of a Ferguson business retaining wall to weigh down their tent
-Another major TV network renting out a gated parking lot for their one camera, not letting people in. Safely reporting the news on the other side of a tall fence.
-Journalists making the story about them
-National news correspondents glossing over the context and depth of this story, focusing instead on the sexy images of tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.
-One reporter who, last night, said he came to Ferguson as a “networking opportunity.” He later asked me to take a picture of him with Anderson Cooper.

One anecdote that stands out: as the TV cameras were doing their live shots in front of the one burnt-out building in the three-block stretch of “Ground Zero,” around the corner was a community food/goods drive. I heard one resident say: “Where are the cameras? I’m going to go see if I can find some people to film this.”

Last night a frustrated resident confronted me when he saw my camera: “Yall are down here photographing US, but who gets paid?!”

[That resident is going to get paid ‘til his eyes pop out. He’s just mad because he sees whites who are also getting paid.]

There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. [If they were doing excellent work, they would deserve for it to make careers out of it.] In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another [white] journalist to them, and their [racist] frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

[Work through what, “as a community”?]

We should all be ashamed, and I cannot do it anymore. I am thankful for my gracious editors who understand that.

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