Our View: Reporter had First Amendment on his side in Missouri standoff

Our View

The University of Missouri is in a state of turmoil.

After a post by student body president Payton Head about racial slurs went viral on Facebook two months ago, the nation’s media has been focused on the university.

Tensions began to boil over on Oct. 10 when a group of students called “Concerned Student 1950” locked arms in order to get university President Tim Wolfe’s attention. One student was bumped by Wolfe’s car during this ordeal. The following day, a third “Racism Lives Here” rally was cut short by campus police. Similar events transpired over the following days until the 24th. On the 24th, students allegedly woke up to a swastika drawn with human feces in a bathroom, which caused tensions to rise.

The protests culminated when black members of the football team got involved, saying that they would not play or practice until Wolfe resigned. Wolfe resigned on Nov. 9, followed closely by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s announcement to resign by the new year.

Shortly after the announcements, protesters locked arms around a square on campus, which would make for quite the powerful picture. Except in this case, the protesters started to protest the camera man. Protesters blocked cameraman Tim Tai’s view and started “hey, ho, reporters have got to go.” Mr. Tai stated his First Amendment rights, but the protesters thanked him for the coverage, but told him to leave.

Eventually, after much struggle, the protesters were able to force the camera man out, but not his friend who was still recording. Mass media professor Melissa Click told him to leave, and then asked the crowd, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? Come on, I need some muscle.”

Some situations call for cameramen to set down their cameras out of respect for what is happening around him. This was not one of those times. The story that Tai was covering is still national breaking news, and he had just as much a right to be there as the protestors. He handled himself professionally while the protesters around him were being rude and abrasive while changing his words. He was just trying to document their story, something that most people would gladly have done. He had a right to take those pictures.

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