Standoff between reporters and police ends with planned trip to Chili’s

Dallas Morning News | 10,000 Words

Police shut a group of reporters out of a public meeting in Dallas Monday, but they got in after tweeting about their plight and phoning city officials.

“I suspect in this case, the city officials played the biggest role in getting us inside. But Twitter certainly didn’t hurt because it allows us to amplify our concerns,” Dallas Morning News reporter Tristan Hallman wrote in an e-mail to Poynter.

The meeting was about the shooting of a mentally ill man by a Dallas police officer. Police let in members of the public, “And anyone in the room who had a phone could have recorded the meeting’s happenings and posted them on the Internet instantly,” Hallman writes in a post about the experience. KXAS-TV reporter Omar Villafranca and other journalists present tweeted about being barred. The calls and e-mails to city hall made them open the doors, Villafranca said in an e-mail to Poynter.

“I also think the social media activity put added pressure on city officials to follow the rules.”

The tweets themselves may have made a difference on Thursday, though, Hallman told Poynter, when reporters were shut out of a conference room at the police department for unclear reasons: “So they kicked us out and then actually had an officer stand guard outside the media room. The tweets started to pile up, and then they let us in.”

Later, Hallman said, he went to feed his meter and saw the attorney of the shooting victim. “He told me that the officers weren’t going to let him go upstairs, which is a non-restricted area in a public building. I tweeted it, and my colleagues tweeted it. Within minutes, Milner was allowed to go up.”

“I can’t say for sure there was a direct cause and effect” Hallman said. “But there is at least a correlation.”

One thing that can be directly attributed to Twitter: the Dallas Police Chief agreed to meet Villafranca and reporter Michael Gruber at a Chili’s to talk things out. Gruber’s calling the meeting, planned for Friday, the “Triple Dipper Summit.”

Here are some tweets Hallman compiled Tuesday:

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