Is the Press Agitating Things in Ferguson for a Good Story?

Capt. Ron Johnson says that yes, at times journalists are mistreated, but sometimes they’re instigating tension to get a good story.

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol speaks to media during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014. 
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol speaks to media during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18, 2014.  Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

“Why Police Will Continue to Arrest Journalists”

In Ferguson, Press Corps Has Become Its Own Story

“At the end of another dangerous night in Ferguson, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson offered an emotional plea to the media on Monday: Please stop putting officers in danger and glamorizing violent agitators in your quest for Internet virality,” Lindsay Toler wrote Wednesday for St. Louis’ Riverfront Times. 

It appeared under the headline, “Why Police Will Continue to Arrest Journalists in Ferguson.”

“Johnson seemed near tears as he illustrated the danger the press face in Ferguson — earlier that night, reporters disobeyed police orders and fled the media corral to take pictures of a car parked across the street before officers could secure two guns. Johnson said police suspect the occupants of the car opened fire at the Canfield Green Apartments that night.

“Journalists defied Johnson’s plea, and it’s easy to understand why they’re even more distrusting than usual. Any journalist covering Ferguson at night has likely been tear gassed, if not hit by debris, rubber bullets, pepper pellets or bean bags. Police have threatened to shoot, mace and arrest reporters, sometimes on live TV or feeds. Officers have detained reporters from the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Getty Images and more, releasing them later without answers.

” ‘Yes, we may take some of you into custody,’ Johnson told press on Monday. ‘But when we do take you into custody and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action. But in the midst of it, we cannot…in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos and trying to move people on, we have to be safe. We have to be safe.’

“With the eyes of the world upon them, members [of] the international press corps covering Ferguson have become their own story, sometimes because they’re treated roughly and sometimes because it seems they’re heightening, not just recording, the tension. From a Los Angeles Times reporter quoting an MSNBC reporter:

@trymainelee says, and I agree, that media has become an accelerant at this point.

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