News Cameras Barred From RFK Jr. Event

By Tiger Haynes, Editor 

RFK Jr. speaking at Purdue University earlier this week. Although still photography was permitted, the news media was not allowed to take audio or video of his remarks.

RFK Jr. speaking at Purdue University earlier this week. Although still photography was permitted, the news media was not allowed to take audio or video of his remarks.

MEDIA COVERAGE RESTRICTED AT RFK JR. EVENT

While browsing the various news wires this week, I was somewhat taken aback to find precious little coverage of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Thursday speech at Purdue University. Then I found out why.

Turns out, the news media’s access to this event was severely restricted: no audio or video recordings allowed.

One of the local television channels, WLFI-TV, tried to cover Kennedy’s speech, but their cameras were turned away at the door. As pointed out in both the text of that station’s web site story, and by a seemingly annoyed anchorman on the evening news that night (watch the video here), “News Channel 18 was not allowed to capture video of his (Kennedy’s) presentation.” 

From what I gather so far, the news media were allowed inside the auditorium. Still photographers were allowed to snap a few flash-free pictures during the first three minutes of Kennedy’s speech. Journalists were allowed to take notes by hand. But they were not allowed to document and verify the accuracy of their quotes with an audio or video recording, thus rendering them unable to produce coverage of the event which meets current legal and industry standards.

That certainly explained why the only two articles written about Kennedy’s Purdue speech were riddled with inaccurate and indirect quotations.

As someone who has attended Mr. Kennedy’s speeches enough times to practically have his prepared remarks memorized by now, I spotted the misquotes right away. Before learning of the “no audio or video” policy at Kennedy’s Purdue event, I wondered why my fellow journalists were resorting to 1930s-era newsgathering methods (frantically scribbling on a notepad and hoping to hell they got it right) when more modern technology is readily available to help them do their jobs. 

Justin Mack of the Journal & Courier only used two direct quotes from Kennedy in his article, resorting to paraphrasing and comments from audience members to fill up the remaining column inches. 

In the Exponent, Purdue’s campus newspaper, staff reporter Nisha Deo wound up roughly paraphrasing the majority of Kennedy’s remarks — because the reporter apparently had no other choice.

This is not indicative of press laziness or negligence, but rather points to something much darker and far more troubling: a disturbing national trend towards restricting media access at public events.

DEPENDS ON WHAT YOUR DEFINITION OF “FREEDOM OF THE PRESS” IS

On college campuses, this trend has escalated in recent years to the point where most major universities now have policies on media access. These rules (disguised by the more friendly-sounding and legally nonbinding word “guidelines”) are published in campus policy memos and posted on the university’s websites so that journalists, faculty, staff and students can be familiar with them. While most of these “media guidelines” are just common-sense stuff that responsible journalists don’t have to be told (for example: don’t follow a professor into the bathroom with a camera rolling. Duh.), all this legalese plays fast and loose with the First Amendment and the right of a free press.

Recognizing that no public institution which recieves public funds has any legal right to restrict press access to their campuses, most of the guidelines set forth by universities are indeed reasonable. In general, most policies agree that the news media does not need permission to videotape on campus, except in areas not typically open to the public, such as dorms or classrooms. Most campus policies also convey the understanding that if a press release is issued regarding a specific event (such as Purdue’s press release for RFK Jr.’s appearance), the media does not need special approval to cover that event. (The press release itself is considered an invitation to do so, although some colleges require additional credentialing for specific events.)

Nonetheless, these “reasonable” rules are sometimes perverted and twisted to deny access to certain media organizations who might provide unfavorable coverage or reporters who may be known to ask tough questions, for example. In other words, the “media guidelines” set forth by a university can be used to bar members of the press for any number of arbitrary reasons. This would be clearly unconstitutional.

After doing a thorough search of Purdue University’s website, I found that Purdue (unlike the majority of American universities today) does not have an official policy regarding news media access to the campus. Or if they do have such a policy, it is not available on their website.

I did, however, find a news release put out by Purdue’s News Service in advance of a speech given by Colin Powell on campus in February, 2007. Powell’s appearance was sponsored by the Purdue College of Engineering, who also sponsored Mr. Kennedy’s recent speech as part of their annual National Engineers Week celebration. 

In that news release, the same media “guidelines” for Powell’s 2007 event appear to be exactly the same as those employed for Kennedy’s event this week. Although in that case, the university makes it clear that the media restrictions were at the personal request of Colin Powell — not the university itself — as a condition of his appearance on the campus:

Please note the following stipulations by Powell (emphasis mine – Ed.) concerning his 8 p.m. address:

At the event, journalists:

• May take video of the lobby of Loeb as attendees enter the playhouse. No video may be taken in Loeb Playhouse.

• May take photos at the photo opportunity and during the first three minutes of Powell’s talk. No flash photography is permitted.

• May not take any audio.

• May not direct any questions toward Powell.

Now of course, most seasoned journalists would read these rules and laugh out loud, “are you freakin’ kidding me?” Problem is, neither Powell or the university are kidding around here. They’re quite serious. And if you don’t abide by these “media guidelines,” you’ll be out on your bum…or at the very least, you sure won’t get much of a story.

But as a journalist, if you can’t tape record the speaker’s remarks or even ask a question, then why are you there

This is exactly the question my editor would ask me if I returned to the newsroom empty-handed after being assigned to cover a certain event. If my news organization had gone to the time and trouble to set up media credentials for a reporter and/or a photographer and set aside space for that story to run, you’re damn right they’d be pretty annoyed with me when I shrugged and told them I didn’t have a story because “someone said recording devices were not allowed.”

Any decent editor would probably tell me to go get another job. Followed by this old saw:

Look kid, when you’re assigned to cover a story, we expect you to get that story. If we can send journalists into a frickin’ war zone and get amazing stories out of them daily, we think you can handle filing footage of someone speaking at a local college campus. This ain’t rocket science, son, and your assignment could be a lot tougher. So quit whining about how some rent-a-cop wouldn’t let you in the door, already. We don’t pay you a salary to stand around looking good. We pay you to gather and report the news!”

Yep, that’s what any wizened, no-nonsense editor worth his or her salt would say to me, allright. And of course, I’d go home, crack open a six-pack of beer (to cry in) and pour through the help wanted ads hoping there might be a news organization out there in the world somewhere who might just hire me to not report the news.

“WHAT PART OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?”

I thought I would pose the question to my “boss,” New Frontier, founding editor of this blog. She’s been my editor and mentor for nearly three years now, helping me navigate the often murky waters of obtaining my degree in journalism. After all, she been working as an editor in print and broadcast newsrooms since before I was even born, so surely she’d have an opinion on this whole Purdue/Kennedy situation, right?

Well, she sure did, and her passionate argument of “what part of the First Amendment do you not understand?” made me damn glad she’s not that poor cameraman at WLFI-TV’s editor! (I might also add that I’m damn glad that I’m not the cameraman at WLFI-TV, or I might just be standing in the unemployment line right now.)

So, I asked her, what should a reporter do under those circumstances? What is the proper procedure to follow when you or your organization is denied access to cover a public event? Then, just to draw a good hypothetical, I used this week’s Purdue/Kennedy incident as an example. If I had been the reporter assigned to the story, and I was told upon arrival at the event to put my camera or tape recorder away, what would she, as my editor, advise me to do?

She laid out a time-proven battle plan for journalists. And it goes a little something like this:

* If you are a credentialed member of the press, on assignment to cover an event, and you are denied access or the ability to fully do your job, the first thing you do is complain. Find an event manager or better yet, a media relations representative for the university and tell them you wish to be admitted and to perform your duties without unreasonable restrictions.

* If that doesn’t work, and the event is still in progress, call your editor immediately. You’d be amazed at the results a good editor can get in these situations with just a few well-placed phone calls. Chances are good that you’ll be in the door, camera in hand, within 5-10 minutes.

* If it is an after-hours event, or no responsible person to make decisions on the university’s behalf can be located in person or by phone, you may have to resort to less-desirable tactics, such as yelling in a crowded room of students that your First Amendment rights as a member of the press are being infringed. That tends to get the attention of higher-ups rather quickly. The downside is, it may also get you arrested for disturbing the peace! So if you have to use this tactic, be prepared to go to jail for a few hours until your editor can bail you out. Make sure you have your editor’s permission to engage in this act of civil disobedience and your news org’s solemn pledge that they will defend you legally as a representative of that news organization.

* If you have the support and backing of your editor and your news organization, go to court. A precedent-setting case will help future generations of journalists have free and fair access to cover public figures in public places.

* Make a story out of the fact that you have no story. If you are denied the ability to produce your story (for example, if you work for a TV station and can’t really produce a story without video footage), that is a story in itself. Write about the resistance you encountered as a member of the press and let the people decide in the court of public opinion.

* As soon as possible after the event, contact the university spokesperson and ask them to comment on why your organization was denied access, and what the university’s media access policy is. Publish that comment in your story and also try to obtain official statements on the matter from the university president or college dean. 

In the specific case of what happened at Purdue Thursday night, my “editorial guru” was very adamant that the first thing that must be determined is exactly who was responsible for the decision to prevent media from taking audio or video of the event. Was this Purdue’s policy, or were the press restrictions imposed at Mr. Kennedy’s request?

As the founding editor of this blog, New Frontier found it very hard to believe that any of this was Kennedy’s idea. Knowing Bobby somewhat, she didn’t think such actions to be indicative of his character. We have covered several of his public appearances in the past (some on university campuses) and never experienced any difficulty obtaining media access or credentials. No restrictions were placed upon us; we were always allowed to tape and photograph freely. So while she couldn’t say for certain if this Purdue media blackout was at Kennedy’s request, she did encourage me to do some research and get to the bottom of it. 

So I tried to obtain a comment from someone at Purdue University today. So far, no response to my written request for a clarification on the matter. As soon as we recieve definitive word from Purdue as to which party imposed these restrictions on the press, we’ll post an update here. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: (Monday, Feb. 23, 2009): According to Jeanne Norberg of Purdue’s News Service, the decision to prohibit audio and video recordings of RFK Jr’s speech was made by Mr. Kennedy’s representatives at Keppler Speakers. Keppler is the agency that exclusively handles all of Kennedy’s speaking engagements.

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5 Comments

Filed under climate change, environment, global warming, media, politics, RFK, RFK Jr., robert f. kennedy, robert kennedy jr., the kennedys, Uncategorized

5 responses to “News Cameras Barred From RFK Jr. Event

  1. Sign of the times Tiger…

    I just read that something like 20 plus states have made serious legal manuevers to actually seceed from the union! through implementing their 10th Amendment right to do so… Look into it. That’s almost half our country already.

    Could it be that real investigative journalism, like real education is now the accepted casualty that people are just recognizing only recently?

    Could it be that mega-monopolies in owning news agencies (Murdock, G.E., Disney, Time Warner) have lead us straight down this path to take what “they” give us or STFU! … Where has that gotten us?

    Y’know I don’t want to beat a dead horse… well maybe, but… the whole “Tin Hat” paradigm applies here Tiger.. You are a young buck and are cutting your teeth in the world as not only a journalist, but an American young adult coming into his own. You’d probably like to think that the rules you thought were holding the country together (like glue) are untouchable and you could bet your last buck on in confidence that those ‘rules’ will be there to back you up through living the American dream.. In being a businessman myself I too was nieve to think this and got my head handed to me multiple times in trying to become an entreprenuer…

    Quick story, I owned a small Kitchen & Bath cabinetry business in NH. I took pity on ‘an old lady, widower’, I sold her a kitchen at my cost plus only $500.00, I also gutted the kitchen and installed the cabinets, plumbing and electrical for free! (I know.. IDIOT!) The day I was done, you could have placed a marble on the counter top and it would stay right there, the floor was out of whack three inches down to zero from one end of the room to the other. I shimmed the cabinets from the floor naturally, to remedy, short of replacing the entire floor, naturally. Long story, longer.. Her friend came over that night, his name was “Wolf” btw.. you don’t know him, do ya?.. anyway, ‘Wolfie boy’ says she should get me to replace the entire floor! being “the contractor” I should have known this! I actually was sued.. Went to court, LOST! and I was so B.S. I went bankrupt! Barely kept my house and one car buddy!… Business folded, assets gone. Chalk up another chump for no good deed goes unpunished right?!

    Moral… Don’t let moss grow under your freeking feet boy! If you are a Journalist… BE ONE! If something smells like shit… YOU STEPPED IN IT! These are times that beckon us to not look as hard as we can at REALITY actually…

    Propoganda, and media manipulation in this case, is ALIVE AND WELL! The media is OWNED, You got PWN’D huge, smacked down.. we are in the throws of a fascist coup, Hostile Takeover!

    The last free hope we have as American citizens is our right to free speech and to our FIRST AMENDMENT GOD DAMMIT SON!

    You and every f*cking ‘JOURNALIST’ need to get over the koolaid, shiny happy people, merry go round that young professionals in the trench (like you) are in. What I mean by that is… write about what your gut tells you more and quit “eating the fast food” (The BY LINES and TALKING POINTS and THE F*CKING POLITICAL CORRECTNESS) I saw a great piece on CNBC the other day, with a field reporter Rick Santelli a financial reporter on the stock exchange floor GOING OFF! He actually had the traders all around him stopping and they vocally added their sentiments as well to the rant. Priceless… The rant was all about the irresponsibility of the sham TARP (I MEAN CURTAIN) and force feeding the criminals who got us into this mess with more corporate welfare, rewarding the crimes of utter incompetance and complete and utter self-indulgence (GREED), in being additionally entitled to F*CKING billions in “BONUS” money FROM US?! to reward this shit?!!! See the rant here Tiger… Really, you need this as therapy! You aren’t alone and a spark needs to be lit! Be part of it (as you are)..

    My point is this… WELCOME TO THE PARTY SON… Really! Glad you could make it! Be part of the press that investigates, rants, exposes, takes exception to the party line and takes responsibility for reporting what is REALLY going on! That used to mean something BTW… Ask WWII survivers about NAZI Germany, these “Crime Boss Families” are HERE and NOW TIGER! (BUSH=NAZI! NO TIN HAT REQUIRED… JUST YOUR BEING A JOURNALIST AND INVESTIGATIVE INTUITION NEED BE APPLIED TO ACCEPT THIS AWFUL REALITY)… COINCI-DINK, The country is imloding TIGER, on multiple fronts, and not above obvious suspicion, that improprieties abound and conspiratorial accusations at the highest accord have been shouted at the roof tops, from BULLHORNS! and from within the halls of our nation’s Senate Chamber on record… Calling for investigations and IMPEACHMENT?!!! For War Crimes and Treason…

    What do you think now about propoganda, media manipulation, civil rights and Constitutional rights being eviscerated?

    Hook up THE HITLER Tiger…

    No tin hat required… Just a command of history being used to play us against ourselves… and it’s working like a charm. Own the media, own history and own it all. CFR, TRILATERALISTS, NWO, MASON, SKULL & BONERS, BILDERBERGER’S… HALIBURTON, BLACKWATER, CARLYLE GROUP, ZAPATA (CIA) OIL, BIN LADEN PARTNERSHIPS, TRADING WITH THE ENEMY AGAIN GEORGE?!!!

    You should be pissed, RFK,JR should be notified and he above all should not tolerate this and should freeking chime in about it. BTW I’m not in the tank for anyone… I believe in JFK, RFK, MLK and what they stand/stood for to the core… These men backed up their talk with their chest out in the open air and defied the propoganda and the fear tactics because they knew they were the front line and that was where the rubber was going to meet the road… They all knew and said openly.. ‘Their gonna get us’ but we’ll give ’em a fight. (sorta)…

    Tiger… ‘There gonna get us, but we’ve gotta give ’em a FIGHT. ‘

    All this chaos … Media INDICT’S OSAMA, Says He’s “the guy” right? 20 minutes after two huge buidings fall at free fall speed and a third after eight hours and it wasn’t hit by any thing except George Bush’s little brother’s implosion hit squad, rigging all those buildings, oh yeah and Guiliani’s sprinkling of magic dust (thermate)…

    WHERE’S OSAMA GOD DAMMIT AND DON’T TELL ME OR MY COUNTRYMEN THAT YOUR STORY NOW IS THAT HE’S OFF THE TABLE ANY MORE DANA PERINO (TRAITOR/CRIMINAL PONZI PROPOGANDIST, ROVIAN, F.U. HAIRSTYLE, NAZI UNDERWEAR WEARIN’, PART OF TREACHERY AND TREASON, OWNED LITTLE BIOTCH!!!) UURRRRP!!! for real… Just Short of Anne CulTure (like in a petri dish)!

    I guess Tiger.. when you still cannot help but cry when you see images of people jumping and screaming curdling shocking screams from that day, that you become so enraged when you see through the thin, thin veil of the obvious cover up, the explosions (squibbs) going off twenty stories below the free falling buliding… and the utter hit and run you over, steal MY COUNTRY out from under me and charge me for it! F*cking Bullsh*t!…. like exactly what is going on right here and now buddy.. That you get it up when ever you can brother and offer whatever you can to bring to the party and “Bring down these NAZI DEVILS!

    If you’re a journalist.. BE ONE! if you’re an American.. BE ONE! and if you’re not with US… YOU’RE WITH THE TERRORISTS! The real axis of EVIL… “is inside the wire”, we’ll need to call in a napalm strike right on top of us kid…

    Put the koolaid down and step away from the “FOX”…

  2. Crickett’s… SHHHhhp Sssssshhhppp…

    WOW.. oh boy.

  3. Anybody home!?

    Freedom of speech is about to get a binding resolution ruling in the U.N. to halt all forms of anything said, written, produced digitally or otherwise refered to as ‘anti-Muslim’ in the context of any U.N. (or memeber states) official business within the U.N.

    Just the first to globalizing the NWO’s Patriot act to global statutes now… The next silent hit we’ll take will be the Codex Alimentarius, as a member state to the IMF or WTO and we’ll be well on our way to nutricide and effectively, the culling off plan of 90% of humankind… The elegant neo nazi plan of the NWO Elite is rapidly coming to fruition…

    Keep heads buried in sand with Rush Limbaugh and Anne Culture (From the petri dish) or the Criminal Karl Rove…. We’re being so obedient and good little sheep… That’s right sleep, sleep… Keep the John Boehner diatribe beat of tax and spend liberals going…

    Remember, to look for the slight of hand and the distractions (Britney, American Idol, scripted PR events with limburger cheese, ann culture (Petri dish), right wing nuts, John Boner, Et, al. or Wall Street crashes and bailout blues stories… The evil is taking place in places we aren’t looking. it’s called misdirection.

    Obama, if you are real… Jail the scum “elite” regardless of who they are and set the tone for our re-build of that of real justice in restoring our Constitution.

    WATCH:

  4. Jack, like you, I find the lack of opinions on this subject more than just a tad puzzling…(sighs)….I guess people are A-OK with the idea of a restricted press in America.

    That is…until *their* news organization gets the boot from a public event!

    What goes around eventually comes around.

  5. chrisy58

    I don’t think people are ok about a restricted press. I know I am not. Maybe the silence is that they don’t know what to say, as they are at a loss of words. Maybe they want to think about what they are going to say before they post?

    I like to write and am part of a writers group that meets every Tuesday. I have never been to journalism school, but if I could go to college I think that is what I would major in. I am pretty much self taught. I have a blog that I write on.

    What is the duty of a journalist/reporter? Fox would say it would be to be balance in your reporting of the news. I listened to a show last Saturday and it was pointed out that a journalist/reporter’s role is to find the truth and have the courage to report it. I think the latter defination is the correct one. On my blog that is what I try to do.

    Another question for us to ponder is how is a journalist/reporter going to find the truth to report if they do not have free access to cover the news? But another question I ask is how many journalists/reporters know the truth and are afraid to report it? It takes courage to stand up for the truth and to expose the truth. It takes courage and strength to dare to tell the truth when so many people in power do not want the truth to be told.

    Yes, we need a free press, but we need a press who is not afraid to stand up and fight. I hate to say this, but I have to wonder are the journalists/reporters willing to stand up and fight for a free press in this country or will they continue to do the puff stories and not report the hard truth?

    Maybe we need a people’s media so that those reporters/journalists who are brave and are willing to tell the truth to the American people can reach the American people with the truth?

    Is the press speaking out and demanding free access so that they can report the news? Are they willing to go to jail if necessary for the right of a free press? If they are afraid to speak up and fight than the average joe/jane is not going to know that the press is being denied free access, are they?

    Another problem is that some people are afraid of the truth. There was a story on Lou Dobbs just last night that talked about a woman in college who printed a little conservative newsletter. If we believe in free speech than shouldn’t every view point have the right to print their views? Yet, people spat on her, and treated her badly because they didn’t like her views. What is wrong with all views being talked about and letting people make up their own mind. Why all the cenorship? Why are people so afraid of allowing someone who disagrees with them their right for free speech?

    Don’t think your story hasn’t made people think just because we didn’t post our reaction. I like to think about things for a while before I react, because I have learned that when I don’t take the time to sort out my feelings I tend to react in an emotional way and tend to be a loose cannon. I am learning to think about things first before I react so that when I do react, I have come to a conclusion in my own mind and am not acting out as a loose cannon.

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