The protests and police clashing in Ferguson, Missouri, is more dangerous to cover as a journalist than many protests around the world because the violence seems less predictable and because journalists have been targeted by the police, said Tim Pool in an interview with Reddit users Tuesday morning.
Pool is a journalist known for his roaming live-stream reports from protest zones in the U.S. and abroad. He landed on news-reader/watcher radar while reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, when his in-the-scrum dispatches from Zuccotti Park became the go-to source on the protest encampment there and the police action that eventually shut it down. Mainstream outlets such as Time, NBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera and Vice have featured his work. In recent weeks, he has been reporting for Fusion on events in Ferguson, including the rioting and looting that followed a grand jury announcement Monday that it would not charge police officer Darren Wilson in the murder of unarmed citizen Michael Brown.
Pool, like many journalists covering Ferguson, has been surprised by the explosive nature of the clashes in the streets there and, like many Americans, he is no fan of the way the mainstream media has covered the story. Excerpts from the Reddit exchanges follow, but do go read the whole thread at Redddit.
What is the most shocking / dangerous place you’ve ever reported from?
When you’re in a conflict with clear factions you can make predictions on where you can and can’t be. I really don’t know what makes the difference but everywhere else I’ve been to has been more predictable. There was no way to predict how the police or protesters were going to react.
This is also the only place I have ever actually been shot at. In other countries factions have fought with each other, but here it seems some people just fired in any direction.
Important to point out though that some of the gunshots are fired into the air…
Ugh that’s awful. Any violence is awful, but “just for the sake of it” is pretty much the worst, ESPECIALLY when you have no idea what unlucky person is going to catch those stray bullets. Someone miles away and safe could happen to take one of the “shot in the air” bullets.
In August when someone fired into the air another man responded
“Stop wasting bullets, shoot at the cops”
Jesus. When you really let that sink in, that’s a pretty terrifying quote.[/blockquote]
Are you aware of the theory that there wouldn’t be violent protests and looting if the Media wasn’t so focused on the violent protests and looting?
Of course, they are creating a self fulfilling prophecy.
I was told a story once in Chicago. There was this new drug they were calling “super heroin.” Several people overdosed on it and the local news reported their location and where they thought it was being sold. The next day way more people overdosed… they found out where to get it from the local news report.
How do you decide when to report on something and when to refrain for fear of that sort of thing happening? I’m a reporter myself, and I sometimes have to make similar decisions.
On contrast, in school we studied an instance where the local paper didn’t give full details about a rapist as police had an operation set up to catch him, and they were afraid too many details in the paper would scare him away. The operation failed, and a lady was assaulted in the neighborhood. Later in his career, the editor said that he regretted not giving full details.
We have to make those hard decisions. He made the right choice, he made the choice he thought was best based on the information he had at the time. Had the operation succeeded he would have been glad he did what he did.
Someone asked the other day “If protester breaks a window and there is no media around to film it, did it really happen?” We have to go and cover the story we are passionate about, sometimes it gets out of hand. I think many of the journalists here are vultures.
I think it’s disgusting how self- indulgent the media have been during the Ferguson debacle. I’m sick of seeing journalists talk and talk and talk about their experiences and opinions on the matter, rather than objectively reporting the news. The 24 hour news cycle obviously fuels this. What is your opinion on the role of journalists in situations such as this?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m doing a lot of that right now. However when I livestream I ALWAYS include filming the press. They are part of the story whether they realize it or not.
Journalists are important, but I think TV news crews are obsolete and getting in the way. Instead of getting in with the people to learn and experience they talk to each other via satellite (while in the same parking lot… ha). CNN misreported that it was smoke in August because they were in a “press zone” talking to each other via satellite while I was getting tear gassed 2 blocks away.[/blockquote]
Compared to other conflicts and issues around the world, how does Ferguson compare in terms of the degree of violence, government reaction (police/military force) and amount of protesters?
In the other countries I’ve been to protests are more focused on single targets. The police reaction is certainly not the most violent and the protester reaction is certainly not the most violent. However it feels so much more dangerous in Ferguson. The media is a part of the problem to the police and a lot protesters here and that makes you a part of the conflict much more than an impartial observer.
When you were in Brazil, the protests were all over the place. It was as vague as ‘end corruption’ and ‘more education’, and at some point some people were asking for a military intervention (coup). Targeting government, the police, the party in power, mayors… Are you sure your translators and fixers translate and explain things well enough?
What I mean is, The other protests tend to be targeted it directly at the government where here it’s more about protesting a system. “The system” is different for everyone it means society, the government, racism, etc.
Tim! Huge vice follower for the past few years, and I gotta say you’re one brave dude. The Instanbul live streams were insane! What do you think was the most shocking thing you saw there? And if you have time, the most shocking thing you’ve seen in Ferguson?
In Istanbul, the bulldozer blowing up! The most frustrating thing though was when the protesters blew up the mobile cell trucks, I needed that cell signal.
In Ferguson the most shocking thing was when the police fired on a group that was trying to help an injured woman. Ref: https://twitter.com/Timcast/status/537159957519810560 [/blockquote]
[Image: Pool via Facebook.]