I spent a large part of 2011 and 2012 compiling a day by day detailed report of journalists who had been arrested at Occupy protests. In each case, I tried to track down multiple sources for confirmation, sought to detail the circumstances and capture a bit of the story of how the arrest happen, and then from there track what happened to the journalist in the days and weeks afterwards. At the same time I launched a series of campaigns with Free Press, calling for cities across the United States to drop charges against journalists and defend First Amendment protections for journalists covering protests.
So when three journalists were arrested in Ferguson, Missouri, in the middle of August people began sending me tips. I was away from my computer and couldn’t track the breaking news as well as I would have liked, but thankfully as the week went on – and more reports of journalist arrests and press suppression poured in – others took up the charge and helped track these issues.
At the time of writing there are three lists tracking attacks on the press in and around Ferguson, Missouri. Each is taking a somewhat different approach and reports a different total number depending their definition of who is a journalist.
- The Freedom of the Press Foundation is documenting each journalist arrest and filing public records requests for the arrest records of the journalists who have been assaulted, detained, and arrested in Ferguson.
- Digital media educator Kathy Gill has compiled a Storify called “Law enforcement actions against journalists in Ferguson, MO” which tracks both arrests and some of the other reports of harassment and abuse.
- At the Poynter Institute Kristen Hare has been adding tweets and other evidence to her post, “Which journalists have been arrested in Ferguson?”
There is an important debate to be had here about who gets counted in these sorts of efforts, and who gets left out. I’ll save that debate for another post, but if you are interested I suggest reading this and this as a starting place.
After a year of tracking, I began to run up against the limitations of a tool like Storify for long-term on-going coverage. Even the lists above, with social media embedded in them, begin to get a bit long and unwieldy, after just a week or two.
Continue reading “Finding a Better Way to Track Journalist Arrests in the United States”