Monday, September 10, 2007

Don't you know you'll destroy people's lives?

"Don't you know you'll destroy people's lives?"

The young man, probably only a few years removed from his high school days stormed out of his place of employment.

"I'm going to need to see some credentials," the haughty young man said.

Credentials? I thought to myself I'm never asked to show credentials. I don't need them at the courthouse, or even with the governor. They know who I am. Maybe when the President came to town I needed credentials. But that's it.

He continued, "I didn't give you permission to take my picture".

"I don't need your permission," I replied. "I'm on public ground."

Some sonic wall must have intercepted my words. But I continued.

"I'm sorry I have to be here today, it wasn't my choice," I countered. "I'm only doing my job."

"What right do you have to be here?" His questions proved to be rhetorical. The landscaping employee had no interest in hearing any answers.

That's because ICE (a cool new name for the INS) had just visited his employer.

Turns out they arrested 19 workers suspected of being illegal aliens. Plus the boss went to jail too, federally indicted for hiring illegals and paying them under the table.

I understand the young man was frustrated. I wouldn't be happy to be working for such an operation either. But if you don't want the feds, and in turn the news media to show up at your door unannounced, don't break the law.

I'm just the messenger.

It often startles me when subjects of bad news tell me I don't have the right to report on them. It's even worse when public servants pull this. You'd be surprised. (Or maybe you wouldn't). In small towns, seems the idea of looking in a public court file or city council agenda nearly requires a court order. The vast majority of public employees I deal with are great. But there are those, who like the young man, ask what right I have.

There's a little thing called freedom of the press. Thanks to the NRA, people fight for their second amendment rights. But how many remember the first amendment? You know, the one that allows you to worship as you please, speak your mind, assemble and petition the government? Yeah, that goofy thing also gives me the right to report on your bad news. Sorry.

Will a small market TV station's minute and a half long report be someone's demise?

But while I could have laid out these arguments, the young man instead parked a company truck in the way of my camera position. Then he jumped in a second truck, laid down some rubber, and screeched past me, nearly losing control in the process. Civil discourse, to the last.


coralhei said...

Interesting! Somewhat the flipside of some privacy arguments I've been making. Is there a difference between a journalist taking photos of participants in a news event and schools taking pictures of activity in their hallways? Perhaps the key difference is that you are a private citizen focusing on news while the school is the state, recording everything, looking for something to use against its citizens.

Steve said...

The courts have long held that what happens in public view can certainly be freely photographed.

I can stand on any public street corner and take pictures (or video) and use that as I wish.

Step onto private property, and I lose that right.

This USA Today article does a pretty good job outlining those rights, with good links to outside sources.

stephanie said...

First of all, the moment someone break the law, I believe their civil rights should come into question.

And number two, the people who broke the law destroyed their own lives, not you, a news reporter, did. You have no reason to say "sorry".

Looks like you caught the guy speeding away on camera, too.

Steve said...

As a human being, I always try to be sympathetic to those going through hard times.

But lawbreakers can't blame reporters for their trouble. It's their own darn fault.