The Front Page: Journalists shouldn’t work for the police

Issue 53: How filming fare evaders threatens audience trust

It’s Friday, October 7th.

This week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reminded riders that fare evaders will be fined between $50 and $100 starting in November. According to WMATA (and reported uncritically by many outlets), fare evasion has resulted in revenue losses totalling $40 million this fiscal year. 

Local television station WJLA sent a reporter to the metro in response to the campaign, where riders were filmed “blatantly hopping turnstiles live on air.” Twitter users quickly called out the editorial decision, explaining that recording turnstile hoppers, some of whom may not have the money to pay their fare, was not needed to inform viewers that fines would be issued

Packages like WJLA’s have the effect of granting sympathy toward law enforcement while sowing mistrust of public transit riders and have resurrected conversations about how journalists should interact with law enforcement. 

In this case, the reporter’s tweet goes beyond republishing a police department’s press release verbatim; it provides clear evidence needed to prosecute people for behavior that is not a threat to the local population. 

While it’s unclear whether Metro is set to increase policing following the warning campaign, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that authorities might rely on social media to identify and pursue leads. 

During and following the protests spurred by George Floyd’s murder, police used social media to identify protestors, which reignited conversations about whether to blur protestors’ faces, similar to those during protests following the murders of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.

And, yes: If police really want information related to an investigation they may be able to obtain materials by subpoena, but preempting that possibility by publishing punitive stories to the possible detriment of other members of the public doesn’t exactly “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.”

Journalists are not law enforcers, and continuing to practice as such — no matter how small the “crime” — invites audiences to further distrust our motives and our information. 

— Holly Rosewood


INTERVENTIONS

A Bit More Media

Q&A: Holly Rosewood — This week, Objective editor Janelle Salanga spoke with newsletter manager Holly Rosewood about her priorities when writing newsletters, how studying history in college influenced her perception of journalism, and how newsrooms have stumbled when covering rural communities. Read the full interview here.

How misconceptions about Muslim women affect journalism — For The Objective, Anmol Irfan writes about how “deliberate disinformation” about Muslims and Islam has shaped her journalism career. After navigating the binary that Muslim women are forced into, she shares why she no longer feels obligated to conform to audience expectations.

Interrupting Criminalization Help Desk — In collaboration with the Just Practice Collaborative, Interrupting Criminalization is launching a free help desk. The service offers consultation to organizations and individuals, including those in the journalism field, “working on projects and community-wide interventions to end violence without using the police.”

Behind #BoycottKTLA — Following the departure of longtime anchor Lynette Romero and the station’s response to calls for diversity, viewers are encouraging others to boycott KTLA, Los Angeles’ oldest commercial television station. Though Latinos make up nearly 50% of its market, reports the Los Angeles Times, there is now no full-time Latina representation on KTLA’s anchor desk.

“In Grief and In Anger” — In Peste Magazine’s introductory letter, editor-in-chief Jason Silverstein shared that the publication is dedicated to health as a human right and shedding light on powerful individuals who do not uphold that belief. Since its launch on Oct. 3, the magazine has covered disability discrimination at medical schools, Moderna, and more.

Nonprofit newsrooms serve news deserts — Nonprofit newsrooms in California are setting up shop to combat the state’s increasing news deserts. For ONA22’s Student Newsroom, Jacqueline GaNun explores the ways two nonprofit newsroom leaders are addressing gaps in California news coverage.


WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Stay Up To Date

7 days until … Voter Accessibility: Improving your election coverage for people with disabilities. This virtual discussion is hosted by the National Press Club.

8 days until … the Minority Student Journalism Workshop. All area college and high school students are invited to apply for this multi-weekend training hosted by the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists.

21 days until … “Breaking Out of Your Niche,” the Newmark Association of Black Journalist’s second annual Black Media Summit. Meal vouchers are available for the first 20 registrants.

What else should we feature? You tell us. Send an email to [email protected].


A Few More Resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | Source Jobs | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian Pacific America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook |  SPJ Race & Gender Hotline | AMEJA Media Resource Guide | The Press in Prison

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We’ll have more for you soon. 

This issue is by Holly Rosewood with editing by Curtis Yee.

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