Where are the adults?

November 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.17.52 PM

An “adult” confronts a protestor at the University of Missouri. [YouTube/Mark Schierbecker]

Yesterday, Tim Tai, a University of Missouri student and photographer on assignment from ESPN.com, had a heated confrontation on campus with a group of student protestors [VIDEO]. The protestors wanted the media gone. Tai said the First Amendment gave him the same right to be there. Students shouted at him and eventually walked en masse into him, pushing him away.

One adult, reportedly a campus employee, got in Tai’s face, heckled him, and physically pushed him. Afterward, a professor tried to grab the phone of the person filming the ordeal and asked students to send some “muscle” to remove him.

This was a great learning opportunity for the students, both the photographer and the protestors. The adults on the scene squandered that opportunity in the worst way.

Reporters can and should be as aggressive as they need to be if accountable public figures or taxpayers’ money is involved. But they need to use their discretion and judgment with subjects who aren’t often in the media.

Respect is key. The photographer could have been more respectful in his approach and not instantly made it a First Amendment battle. But he’s young, a student. As a teacher, I see that as an opportunity for someone to learn. Some of the protestors clearly had an opportunity to learn, too. If your safe space is in a public space during a big news event, you have to account for the shared nature of the space. You can put up “no media” signs and criticize the media. You can ask them to leave and point out their disrespectfulness. But you can’t push or threaten them.

But again: these are students! They don’t have same accountability. They’re ostensibly less mature than the adults who were present.

Two adults were present who could have turned this into a positive learning opportunity. (It’s on a damn campus.) Those two adults embarrassed themselves. They didn’t focus the argument. They fibbed and acted like children. Those adults also escalated the situation and got physical–not hard, but aggressively–with a student.

By the end, the photographer and other students had shown themselves to be more mature than the adults, who horribly embarrassed themselves.

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NEWS
- A much prettier website with my journalistic highlights is at lawrencelanahan.com.
- Disappearing Ink released its first album, "There Is No Time and Nothing's Been," in December 2014. It's available on iTunes.
- After almost five years at WYPR, I'm back to freelancing. Editors can reach me at llanahan@gmail.com.
- The Art of Social Critique: Painting Mirrors of Social Life includes my chapter "New Possibilities and Old Limitations of Political Art in The Wire."
- You can still buy my 2004 self-titled EP.

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