May 30, 2020

This article has been updated.

On any given day, any one of the attacks that I mention in this column would be newsworthy. The fact that this is only a sampling of the many attacks on journalists this weekend underscores the dangers that they are willing to face to document an outpouring of anger, frustration and, in some cases, senseless opportunistic violence.

A crowd swarmed WLKY chief photographer Paul Ahmann, knocked him to the ground, then surrounded him while laughing and taking pictures of him.

WLKY chief photographer Paul Ahmann was attacked by a mob and thrown to the ground. He suffered minor injuries. (Screenshot from a Facebook Live video by Chris Coleman)

While the WLKY photojournalist lay on the ground, bystanders cheered and photographed him. (Screenshot from a Facebook Live video by Chris Coleman)

Demonstrators trashed news cars in Boston, Atlanta, Louisville and Los Angeles. They tossed bottles at reporters in Minneapolis, grabbed a reporter while she was on the air in Phoenix and smashed the windows and iconic CNN sign outside the networks’ Atlanta headquarters.

A demonstrator grabs KPHO CBS 5/KTVK 3TV reporter Briana Whitney and lunges for a microphone on live TV. (Screenshot, Twitter, @BrianaWhitney)

Police added to the danger. In Louisville, a police officer fired more than a half dozen nonlethal PepperBall rounds that hit WAVE-TV reporter Kaitlin Rust and photojournalist James Dobson. Dobson said he was wearing a protective vest that said “press” in reflective lettering but received several shots to the chest from an officer who fired straight at the news crew on live TV. Rust screamed on air when the round hit her, but kept on reporting even while the officer aimed his weapon. The crew said they were standing behind the police lines when the officer fired.

A police officer aims his weapon directly at the live TV camera and fires multiple rounds, hitting both a photojournalist and a reporter (Screenshots from WAVE-TV Louisville)

A couple of hours later, the station said a police public information officer apologized. WAVE-TV management and corporate leaders from Gray Television called on the police department to launch an investigation.

(Screenshot, Facebook)

A Denver Post photojournalist also was hit by police PepperBall rounds.

NBC social media journalist Micah Grimes, covering the protests in Minneapolis, was among several journalists who said police fired non-lethal rounds directly at them.

In Las Vegas, police arrested two journalists who were covering a mostly peaceful protest on the Vegas strip.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported:

“It is appalling that Las Vegas police officers, who have nothing to do with what happened in Minnesota, would so forcefully take into custody two people who were obviously working photojournalists and posed no threat to law enforcement or public safety,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said Saturday. “They never should have been touched, let alone arrested and then booked into jail.”

Attacks on journalists continued Saturday. Ian Smith, a photojournalist for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, posted a selfie from an ambulance.


The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it has volunteer attorneys on call for journalists who need legal help covering the uprisings.

Reach them at 800-336-4243 or through email at hotline@rcfp.org.

I also drafted this guide for journalists covering conflict.

Al Tompkins is senior faculty at Poynter. He can be reached at atompkins@poynter.org or on Twitter, @atompkins.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Donate
Tags:
Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
More by Al Tompkins

More News

Back to News