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In plain view from public places: Photojournalists and free speech

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Legal issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Visual Reporting | 0 comments


freespeechweek_logo_mainWhat can and cannot be photographed continues to fall under question, bringing attention to photojournalists and igniting important First Amendment conversations. As part of other Free Speech Week lessons and activities, teachers may use this opportunity to incorporate key readings and discussion geared toward visual storytellers.

For starters, journalism students paying attention to current events likely caught last week’s story of documentarian Deia Schlosberg arrested while filming an oil pipeline protest in North Dakota. If needed, teachers can engage students in a quick research activity to update each other. Key questions: What’s the story? How does this relate to the First Amendment? How does a photojournalist’s role compare to that of a documentarian?

Photojournalists use the phrase “in plain view from public spaces” to describe in broad terms their interpretation of access and privacy as related to their First Amendment rights. What does this mean? Teachers can consider this as a warm-up writing prompt or partner conversation between students before sharing as a larger group.

To read more about photojournalists and the First Amendment, teachers can assign small groups to read and report on any of these articles:

NYT Lens blog: Criminalizing photography

University of Missouri protest “muscle” incident

Pennsylvania student shooting routine traffic stop

First Amendment Center: Photographs as speech

ACLU: What to do if you’re detained

Police, cameras and the Constitution

To tie in a media literacy component, teachers may add “Photography and the Law: Know Your Rights” from Photojojo. How is this article more or less credible? How does the material compare to the other articles under discussion? What factor(s) affected your analysis?

It’s likely that most journalism classes already discussed this photo from Aleppo and a related article
 back in August, but the connection here is strong between the power of a photo and why the world depends on photojournalists to capture what audiences need to see, regardless of how terrifying, depressing or controversial those images may be.

The National Press Photographers Association offers this statement about its advocacy work protecting photojournalists’ rights.
After reading related articles and discussing efforts underway to protect those constitutional freedoms, teachers may want to present powerful storytelling images that may spark debate about free speech and/or the ethical considerations photojournalists face. One option is to assign students to find and share photos on their own.

Here is a simple list of possible photos and/or photographers to research and discuss:

  • Yannis Behrakis, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography, on the refugee crisis in Greece
  • General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon” by Eddie Adams in 1968
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning photos taken by photojournalist Paul Watson of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu
  • Image galleries showing treatment of Iraq prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison complex
  • “The vulture and the little girl” by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993
  • “The Falling Man” by Richard Drew during 9/11 attacks
  • “Fire on Marlborough Street” or “Fire escape collapse” by Stanley Forman
  • “The Burning Monk” by Malcolm Browne

From celebrating Free Speech Week and First Amendment protection of what photojournalists can do legally to the ongoing considerations of what they should do ethically, the topic is one worth exploring on a regular basis.

by Sarah Nichols, MJE

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Public spaces

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


Foundations_mainEthical guidelines
Photographs in hallways and other public spaces can be an essential part of journalistic storytelling.

Student journalists need to know what are considered public spaces for still and video photography and audio. Know where you can legally and ethically be, and why, in the information gathering process. Check with the Student Press Law Center about what are public spaces in schools.

Staff manual process
Student journalists should know what are considered public spaces in schools for capturing visual images and audio recordings.

Student journalists should protect source privacy in the information-gathering process.

Student journalists should know and follow privacy laws for their state. Student editors should ensure all staff members are aware of these principles and know how to handle them.

Lens Flare: Photographing Law Enforcement Can Create Confusion for Both Police and Student Journalists, Student Press Law Center
Know Your Rights: Photographers, ACLU
Criminalizing Photography, New York Times
Access to Student Athletic Events, Student Press Law Center


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Court ruling may give
new meaning to ‘open mic’

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


by Stan Zoller
The ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court that strikes down the state statute prohibiting the recording of conversations without permission may not be the panacea a lot of people are hoping for.

The Chicago Tribune reports the statute was considered among the strictest in the country.  The Court said loud conversations in public could not “be deemed private,”,noting “…a loud argument on the street, a political debate on a college quad, yelling fans at an athletic event, or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others.”

The case was, to no surprise, complicated and came as a result of recordings made by Annabel Melongo who recorded three telephone conversations she had with a court reporter supervisor at the Leighton Criminal Court Building about the policy for correcting a hearing transcript.  Melongo was convicted and spent 20 months in Cook County Jail.  Melongo also posted those recordings on the Internet.

[pullquote]At a time when there are more and more “citizen journalists,” professional journalists need to maintain or raise the bar of ethical news gathering.  A gentle reminder that a conversation is being recorded is a great step to incorporate.[/pullquote]

While the Court’s ruling does not specifically cite the recording of telephone conversations, you can bet that there are those people who will record anything without asking.

And therein lies the problem.

For responsible citizens and journalists, the use of recording devices is a useful backup to ensure accuracy as no one likes to be misquoted.  Freedom to record does not diminish the need for courtesy and ethics. It seems logical that a reporter, or other individual seeking to record a conversation, would inform the interviewee – whether it’s an in-person or phone interview.  I imagine there will be a new round of protocol for both interviewers and interviewees.

For interviewers, inform; for interviewees, ask.  If the Court ruling does in fact cover telephone interviews, do people now have to answer their phone “hello, please don’t record this?”

So while people will point the finger at over-zealous interviewers, there seems to be a possibility some people, especially public officials, may clam up out of fear of being recorded.  Good bye transparency.  At some point, in some way, the two sides need to work together.   Responsible recorders, and for the sake of argument, journalists, need to have full disclosure from public officials no matter how the information is being taken down – writer or recorded.  Conversely, journalists will need to follow ethical standards and not be deceitful in how they record (written or audio) information.

The Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists state that journalists should “…Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story…”

Quite simply, in most cases, do not be deceitful.

At a time when there are more and more “citizen journalists,” professional journalists need to maintain or raise the bar of ethical news gathering.  A gentle reminder that a conversation is being recorded is a great step to incorporate.

Conversely, interviewees, especially public officials, need to recognize the need for transparency and not hide behind a microphone.

It’s a two-way street and in the end, it’s the news consumer who benefits the most.

For a look at the opinion by the Illinois Supreme Court, go to Eavesdropping Opinion

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