Fed Up With Media Circus, One Reporter Explains Why He Walked Away From Ferguson

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Rainey Wilson, who lives in Ferguson, sets out signs along West Florissant Avenue on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. "We love Ferguson and want everyone to know it's not a bad place," said Wilson. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Freelance journalist Ryan L. Schlosser went to Ferguson, Missouri to report on the rioting that followed the controversial police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, on August 9.

He came away disgusted with the way the story was being reported, and the callous, self-serving manner in which national and international news outlets insinuated themselves, and their apparent agendas, into the much smaller local narrative – all while demonstrating a fundamental disregard for Ferguson residents while they were guests in their city.

“After what I saw last night, I will not be returning,” wrote Schlosser, who went to Ferguson to report on the riots in collaboration with Al Jazeera America. “The behavior and number of journalists there is so appalling, that I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of the spectacle.”

Does he give examples? Of course he does:

  • 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.

Schlosser also observed the selective pre-editing of story ideas, in which news outlets took the lay of the land and quickly settled on reporting only on the most sensational events. If anything good was going on as a result of the community’s coming together over the Brown shooting, the mainstream media wanted no part of it.

“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,” he blogged. “I heard one resident say: ‘Where are the cameras? I’m going to go see if I can find some people to film this.’”

Read Schlosser’s full post here.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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