Friday, September 09, 2005

ISSUE: Reporters critical media restrictions in New Orleans

Reporters criticize media restrictions in New Orleans

When NBC anchor Brian Williams and his crew were trying to take pictures of a National Guard unit securing a Brooks Brothers shop in downtown New Orleans, a sergeant blocked the footage by ordering them to the other side of Canal Street. "I have searched my mind for some justification for why I can't be reporting in a calm and heavily defended American city and cannot find one," Williams said yesterday. "I don't like being told when I can and cannot walk on the streets and take pictures." But he grumbled and told his crew to stop shooting Wednesday, Williams said, because "authority in New Orleans is as good as the last person to make the rule. I didn't have time to take it up the chain." As rescue and recovery efforts continue in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, reporters and press analysts are growing increasingly critical of restrictions on media access. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, under heavy journalistic fire for its slow response to the disaster, has sparked new criticism by asking news organizations not to take pictures of bodies being recovered in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Source: Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post

Link: FEMA: Photo request "not a directive"; by Meghan Martin, Poynter Online

Photographer roughed up by New Orleans police

A Toronto Star photographer was threatened, shoved and stripped of his cameras by New Orleans police while on assignment in the hurricane-ravaged city. Lucas Oleniuk found the entrance to New rleans barred by an armed roadblock when he and reporter Tim Harper arrived Sept. 1. Through mixing in with a supply convoy, they were able to enter the city. On his way to the French Quarter, Oleniuk noticed armed officers in front of an apartment building. "As soon as I got out, there were shots in the air," Oleniuk, 27, said from Baton Rouge. The area filled with New Orleans tactical teams who engaged in a gunfight with two men. Oleniuk, hiding behind a lamppost, moved to a safer location behind a cruiser and took pictures alongside the police. Meanwhile, Harper had shotguns pointed at him by officers and was commanded to back his car up. The suspects were eventually brought out of the building in handcuffs and bleeding profusely. They were punched and kicked numerous times by six or!
seven officers. Oleniuk said he was still photographing the scene when officers approached him, shoved him back and ripped two cameras and his press pass from around his neck. "I pleaded with them for the cameras," said Oleniuk, who said he asked numerous times only to be denied. Walking away one block, Oleniuk decided to ask one last time. An officer he had been working beside returned his cameras but without the memory cards containing 350 pictures. "When I asked for the pictures, one said, 'If you don't get your ass out of here, I'm going to break your motherf--ing jaw.' "

Source: Daniel Jungwirth, The Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Link: Police violence against journalists in New Orleans in Katrina aftermath; by Reporters Without Borders

Thursday, September 08, 2005

CHANGE OF LOCATION: Tuesday and subsequent classes in Bowman 203


Today I stopped at the registrar's office and arranged to change our
meeting room to Bowman 203. This classroom has some multimedia equipment
that we will be using as the semester moves along.

See you on Tuesday in 203.

-- bill

Bill Densmore, director
The Media Giraffe Project
Journalism Program
Department of Communication
108 Bartlett Hall
Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst
Amherst MA 01003
CELL: 413-458-8001

FEMA now says photo restriction was request not directive

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 8 Sep 2005 21:07:51 EDT

FEMA: Photo Request "Not a Directive"

By Meghan Martin (

A FEMA spokesman said Thursday that the agency hopes news organizations won't show dead bodies as part of their coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but acknowledged that such coverage decisions lie with editors, not government officials.

"Decisions about running photos are up to members of the news media," said Mark feifle. "Out of respect for the deceased [and their families] ... FEMA has asked that images not be shown. But it's up to the media whether they're shown or not."

"There's not a directive," he said. "It's just a request that FEMA people have made to members of the media."

This clarification follows a Reuters report earlier in the week ( ) that a FEMA spokeswoman said the agency "does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area."

Pfeifle said FEMA does not prohibit the collection of these images. However, the agency is not making it easy for journalists to photograph them, either.

A Reuters reporter was refused space on a FEMA rescue boat in New Orleans this week. A FEMA spokeswoman told Reuters later that the reporter was not allowed to join rescuers because they needed space on their boats.

This is not the first time FEMA has made such a request, Pfeifle said. It is a typical agency response, made out of concern for the dignity of the deceased and their families, he said.

"We don't want ... the situation to occur where an individual who's searching for their loved one ... finds out the news of a loved one's passing on the television or in a newspaper," he said. The request is not something that the agency plans to enforce.

"How does one enforce it? It's up to members of the media to print or not print a photo," Pfeifle said. "There's nothing to prevent the member of the media from taking photos. That's the First Amendment." As word of the request made its way through the journalism community this week, many have reacted to the idea of censoring images ( , including Poynter faculty. Here is what they said:Kenny Irby, Visual Journalism Group Leader ( I am strongly opposed to a government organization making such a request and even more disappointed by any attempts to enforce it. This is very similar to our national policy prohibiting the photographing of fallen United States soldiers -- killed in the line of duty in the Middle East.

This appears to be an overt attempt by FEMA to minimize the visual impact of this tragedy. The public needs to see the impact of our inadequate planning and deficient response to this national disaster. It is the media's responsibility to report on and present this horrific story with compassion and sensitivity for the stakeholders.

LINK: Democracy Now! broadcast regarding alleged racism in attitudes and official reaction to New Orleans flood

Democracy Now!, the Pacifica Foundation's five-nights-a-week, hour long newscast, devoted most of the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005, to stories and interviews which inferred institutional racism has played a role in reactions of individuals and the government to the New Orleans flood.

Go to the DemocracyNow! download page for Sept. 7, where you may choose to download and listen to the MP3 audio version of the cast, or stream the audio version use RealPlayer; or stream the video with RealPlayer.

For a discussion on Tuesday, Sept. 20, please research and answer the following questions. You are encouraged to work in groups of two or three. The expected output will be a blog post, written collectively, summarizing our findings.

1) Make a list (or spread sheet) of each reference in the broadcast to alleged racism. Are there facts presented to support the claim?

2) Classify each reference as a field observation, a factual claim, an analytical judgement or an opinion. How well supported are the observations and claims; how fair are the judgements or opinions?

3) Do you think the broadcast, or parts of it, have a "point of view?" If so, where does that point of view come from and who's interests does it represent?

4) Does the broadcast separate for the viewer/listener facts vs. opinions? Is that necessary?


For each instance of a field observation or factual claim noted above, please use Google and other search and news resources on the Internet, or print or broadcast television/radio sources, to attempt to find additional news or official citations of the same observation or claim.

5) In how many instances can you find additional citations? Describe?

6) Execute additional news searches to find instances of other news organizations, blogs or websites making reference to racism as a issue in the Katrina aftermath.

7) Do you think there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the race of the victims of the New Orleans flood has affected the official reaction to and handling of the disaster aftermath? Do you think it will affect policy decisions about how the cleanup and rebuilding occurs?

8) How should the news media handle this aspect of the Katrina story?


After considering the questions above, your assignment is to write a comment to this post and submit it to this website not later than Thursday, Sept. 15. We will discuss on Tues., Sept. 13 where you should meet on Thurs., Sept. 15. Write your post and submit it based on your individual or team research. Whereever possible, include relevant web links in your comment.

After Thursday, you are to read your classmates' posts and come to class prepared at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to participate in a collective formulation of a single "class post" about this topic.

Questions? Email or call me at my office, 413-458-8001, in Williamstown anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays.

Also, please check this blog site for additional topical posts or assignments.

-- Bill Densmore

ASSIGNMENT: Read PEJ aggregation page of Katrina reporting analysis

Please review the Project for Exellence in Journalism's aggregation wab page examing the coverage of Katrina. It provides links to many other resources which might help in the investigation of whether race can be documented as a factor in official response to the catastrophe.

-- bill densmore

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

RACISM? Wally Bowen of Mountain Area Information Network comments

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 15:36:18 -0400 (EDT)
From: Wally Bowen <>
To: Thos Myers <>
Subject: Re: [ACME Member List] Katrina news:

My problem with the term "refugees" is that it connotes people "without a country" or separated from their country. The citizens of New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, et al, have a country -- they are American citizens.

What they lack is a government that represents their interests. Indeed, it's no secret that Bush is in office because his boosters so effectively suppressed the votes of these very same African-American citizens. Jesse Helms pulled similar dirty tricks in predominately African-American districts here in North Carolina every time he won by razor-thin margins. Then his campaign would get fined by the FEC after he was securely returned to the U.S. Senate.

More on Wally Bowen and MAIN is at:

Barbara Bush commet at Houston Astrodome: Racism?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 18:58:55 +0000 (GMT)
From: Thos Myers <>
Subject: [ACME Member List] Katrina news:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

-Barbara Bush after touring the refugee camp at the Houston
Astrodome. [1]

[1] You can hear Barbara Bush on American Public Media's "Marketplace" at:

I have read some comments by people saying that the people without homes, without clothing, food, water and who are being moved to football stadiums and into private homes are not "refugees's" which is so much a third world description. America doesn't have refugee's, save for the thousands of Americans who are seeking refuge fromm the storm.

Oprah and Jesse (Jackson): you are wrong. These people are refugees.

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