Angus Johnston Profile picture
Aug 13, 2018 18 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
What obligations activists have to journalists is a serious question, but what obligations journalists have to activists is a serious question too.
When I was upstate with my kids for the big national #FamiliesBelongTogether protest in June, a local reporter saw us painting signs before the march.
He asked me if he could talk to the kids, asked me if he could take photos, asked if he could use their names in the article.
We were in a public place. He could have taken photos without asking, approached one of the kids when I was somewhere else. He chose to restrict what he photographed and who he talked to for ethical reasons.
What those rules should look like isn't an easy question to answer. What those rules ARE isn't an easy question to answer. This stuff is complicated, and journalists need to acknowledge that.
And as @lirael_abhorsen suggests, violating personal space at a march is something journalists do too—far more to activists than activists do to them, in my experience.
Some things that people say in public should be treated as private and off-limits to journalists. Some photographs should not be taken. Which ones? There's no consensus. We're still working that out.
Hostility to journalists is too often treated as hostility to free speech.
Just one more example. I was at a rally/press-conference a while back. Inadvertently stepped into the sight line of a news camera. Got yelled at by the cameraman, told to move.
I was on a public street, exercising my first amendment right to assembly. My right to stand on that sidewalk was indisputable—inalienable, even. He had no legal grounds to demand that I move.
I moved, of course, and didn't think anything more of it, beyond being mildly annoyed by his tone and mildly embarassed that I hadn't noticed I was in his way.
Was he expressing hostility to the first amendment when he demanded that I move? Of course not. If he'd elbowed me out of the way of his camera would he have been chilling my right to assemble freely? No.
His interests in that moment weren't the same as mine. He was advocating for his interests. That's it. And most of the time when a protester confronts a journalist at an action, it's exactly the same thing—a divergence of interests, expressed forcefully.
And circling back to the rally I attended with my kids, it's entirely possible that the reporter we talked to that day was asking permission not because of ethics but because he knew that photographing and talking to kids without permission might piss people off.
"Will doing this cause a ruckus that I don't want?" is already part of the reporter's calculus when deciding how to cover a protest, in other words.
"We're here for you" is a fiction that journalists peddle to activists, and peddle to themselves about activists. It's often the case that media coverage is good for a protest, but not always, and not all coverage.
(I've got to get back to work, but I could do a whole other thread about how much more deferential news photogs are at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade than they are at protests. Who is seen as deserving of privacy in public is not at all a straightforward question.)
Seeing that this thread is getting passed around fair amount by reporters. My DMs are open if folks want to dig a bit deeper into these issues.

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More from @studentactivism

Oct 6, 2018
Dean Heller (R-NV) just voted to confirm Kavanaugh. He recently called the sexual assault allegations against the judge "a little hiccup." He's up for re-election next month.
Jacky Rosen, Heller's Democratic opponent, said Kavanaugh "lacks the impartiality, the integrity, and the judicial temperament to sit on the Supreme Court." 538 says she has a 52.9% chance of winning. You can donate to her campaign here.…
538 says Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) has a 31.4% chance of winning, but she voted against Kavanaugh anyway—in North Dakota—saying "our actions right now are a poignant signal to young girls and women across our country." You can support her campaign here.…
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Oct 6, 2018
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It's not that we don't know how to make it easier and more attractive for people to vote. It's that a lot of people in power—disproportionately, though not exclusively, Republicans—aren't interested in doing so.
Youth voter turnout is going to be higher this year than it is in most midterms, but it's not because old people have been yelling at young people to shame them for not voting.
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Oct 5, 2018
Just a reminder that the vote that's happening right now is a vote invoke cloture—to limit debate and move to a vote on the nomination. Voting yes now (as Collins, for one, will do) isn't a tell on your vote tomorrow.
That said, Murkowski voting no is ... quite interesting.
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Oct 5, 2018
David Brooks thinks the problem with people's responses to the Kavanaugh nomination is that they predictably adopted positions in line with their prior sociocultural commitments. Which position is, of course, predictable and in line with his prior sociocultural commitments.
"People formed their opinions on Kavanaugh mechanically and predictably!" says Brooks, in a column that anyone who's ever read two Brooks columns could have dictated verbatim a week ago.
Fun fact: I wrote the above two tweets on the basis of a one-sentence screenshot someone tweeted, and only afterwards went back and read the column to make sure I wasn't making an ass of myself. I wasn't!
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An interesting, easy to miss, sentence from WaPo's piece on Manchin and the Kavanaugh vote tonight.
Note the phrasing here—Republicans think they can get Manchin "if they can get 50" votes without him. But they only need a total of 50, since Pence can break a tie if needed.
Now, this may be an error—@seungminkim, can you comment?—and what they meant to say was that the GOP believes that if they can get to 49, Manchin may get them to 50, but that's not what the piece currently says.
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Oct 4, 2018
Each of my kids has gotten into an argument about Kavanaugh with a boy in their grade this week. By their accounts, both of them won.
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She said, "How about the fact that he committed perjury multiple times?" His response, according to her, was a quiet "bye" as he walked away.
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