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Editorial: Media: friend or foe?

University of Missouri students circle tents on the Carnahan Quadrangle, locking arms to prevent media from entering the space following the resignation of President Timothy W. Wolfe on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Every great historical movement has had two things in common: a cause for the people to rally behind and a media presence that sheds light on the movement.  The media has been abuzz with the recent happenings at the University of Missouri and a whirlwind of racial tensions seem to be reaching a climax.

A video from the UM campus that shows protestors prohibiting a student freelance journalist for ESPN from entering a tent compound has surfaced on the Internet.  The journalist is seen arguing with several students and even an assistant professor of mass communications while being physically pushed away from the tent city.  After about 12 minutes of what amounts to harassment, the protestors pat themselves on the backs for their perceived triumph over one-sided media coverage.

The most interesting thing about this altercation is not how the protestors rallied together to confront this assumed threat, but their unwillingness to hear the journalist out.  Had they given the journalist the same respect that they were demanding from him, perhaps they may have seen that their struggle is one in the same.

The gravity of the cause that had the protestors so impassioned is very much dependent upon the media that covers their demonstrations.  A free press is the lynchpin that holds a democracy together.  Without it, the same injustices that are being protested will flourish.  Journalists are the only people capable of holding those in power responsible for their actions.

The Spectator staff understands and is fully aware of the ethical implications that come with covering volatile situations.  However, the protestor’s reaction to a fellow student is frankly disheartening.

The scope of their cause can only go as far as the media will take it.  With that being said, there needs to be an understanding between student activists and journalists that they can only benefit from cooperation.  When journalists aren’t allowed to get to the epicenter of a story, they are forced to report what information they can. When this kind of thing happens, the story suffers from a lack of detail and the nuances that would make it great.

We at the Spectator want to urge all college media outlets to understand the circumstances before they make an attempt at coverage.  Maintain the objectivity that makes us journalists, but be sensitive to the ethical gravity that comes with their legal right to cover an event.

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