At Excellence in Journalism 2017, a group of journalists who have faced verbal and online abuse, physical assaults and arrest while dong their jobs, took on the topic of increasingly demonized by some members of the public, including elected leaders.
The session, titled "Enemies of the People? The Job of Journalists in 2017" featured Dan Heyman, the journalist arrested in West Virginia for asking questions of HHS Secretary Tom Price at the West Virginia capitol building. Although charges against him were dropped just this week, Heyman said he was still considering pursuing a complaint against the capitol police for inaccuracies in the police report filed in the incident.
Los Angeles television reporter Gordon Tokumatsu, who was struck in the face by a man while trying to gather news about a fatal shooting, urged journalists in the room to stand their ground, especially with law enforcement agencies that ignore the law when it comes to press access. He said if possible, reporters should carry printed copies of the relevant statutes in their area, to show police who violate them. He also said continuing to pursue access through an officer's supervisors sometimes pays off.
The Washington Post's Doris Truong talked about her experience after someone posted a photo of a woman seemingly looking at notes on a table at a Congressional hearing, claiming the woman in the photo was Truong. She wasn't, but that didn't stop cyber bullies from flooding Truong with abuse both before and after she explained that it was a different person.
Las Vegas news director Terri Foley was also on the panel, relating experiences faced by her team, and offering suggestions to news managers about how to help protect news crews in the field. And RTDNA's Incoming Executive Director Dan Shelley highlighted the Association's efforts to protect and defend journalists not only from arrests and physical attacks, but from the pervasive accusations of "fake news" and distrust of journalists.
The panel was moderated by RTDNA Chair-Elect Scott Libin.