Respecting Journalists

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Over the past year, I have seen stories about how journalists have been disrespected, attacked and treated like scum.

As a journalist, all of those things were heartbreaking to watch, and it is scary to believe that this is the current world we are living in.

For the past 10 weeks, I have been interning at a small paper in Sullivan, Indiana. It was our job to cover the whole of Sullivan County.

The second week of my internship, my editor sent me to cover a potential drowning in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in between Dugger and Linton.

Because I was an intern, they wanted me to have the full “breaking news experience.”

I’ve helped cover breaking news for The Shield for the past three years and did it as well for the Courier, so I thought I knew what I was doing.

When I arrived at the scene the family of the man who had drowned was standing off to the side. Due to the amount of foliage and trees, you couldn’t see the creek or even hear it. There was a long gravel road leading up to it, blocked off with police cars.

As a journalist, it is my job to report what I see.

I didn’t want to be invasive and I wanted to remain respectful, so I took one photo of a cop car on the road.

One member of the family told me that he didn’t want me to do that during this time.

Respectfully, I put the lens cap back on my camera, apologized and told them I was waiting to speak to the public information officer.

Everything was fine.

Then they got the word that the elderly gentleman had passed away.

I moved to my car to give the family some space as a young woman started screaming profanities at me and yelling at me that I was a piece of s—.

Shortly after, another young man shouted, “go break her camera.”

Then a middle-aged woman screamed at me that if I didn’t leave, she would make me leave.

I apologized and start putting my stuff in my car, as she started charging toward me, threatening to attack me.

I managed to get in my car and drove off as she chased me off the property.

I can honestly say that was probably one of the scariest times of my life.

Shortly after, I hear from my editor that he was jumped at the scene of a drowning a few weeks before and that little towns don’t like journalists.

He told me that “we are living in some strange times and some people really hate the press these days.”

Although that may be true, I believe that journalists deserve the same respect that any other person should have.

I didn’t want to be at the drowning that day.

I didn’t want to have to try and talk to a PIO about what happened.

I didn’t want to invade a very private and devastating moment.

I understand that there are certain situations where it’s not always nice having the press there.

But please keep in mind that it’s never okay to threaten someone for doing their job, especially when they are doing it in a respectful and ethical manner.

Also, nine times out of 10, if it’s something sad, we probably don’t want to be there either.

We are taught to accomplish our job without deliberately hurting anyone or making vulnerable situations worse.

We just strive to tell the news.

Please just remember to respect journalists.

At the end of the day, we are humans first.

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