Student activists contend with freedom of the press

As journalists we are honor bound to uphold a certain standard of ethics. As student journalists we hold ourselves to this same standard. Often our job as reporters is misunderstood by the public, with people failing to recognize that we are professionals, doing a job.

As a journalist, Tim Tai was doing his job reporting at the University of Missouri. As so often is the case, Tai was met with resentment from protesters for what they perceived as a lack of sensitivity on Tai’s part.

Following months of protests at Mizzou over charges of persistent racism, the college’s president resigned and the chancellor stepped down on Nov. 9.

Following the resignations, photojournalism student and ESPN freelance photographer Tim Tai was assigned to report on a protest site. Tai was denied access to a public space which the protesters had occupied.

In a video capturing the incident, Tai was taunted by protesters, saying he was disrespecting students’ right to assemble and “be alone,” in a public space. Following verbal taunts and physical force, Tai responded by invoking the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment protects your right to be here, and mine,” he said.

Tai reiterates this point multiple times throughout the video, making clear he has as much right to document the protest as the protestors do to assemble.

Because the protest was held in a public space, the press, as defined through the First Amendment, has the right to peacefully assemble. The protesters who confronted Tai were aggressive, physically pushing him and infringing on his rights.

This incident is not unique to Mizzou’s campus. The Campus staff has received its share of threats and attempts at  intimidation by both students and faculty. While we understand our job is not to be loved, we, as journalists, strive to uphold a professional standard for every story we cover, being sensitive when necessary and persistent when needed.

We do not actively choose our stories based on public demand. Rather, we seek to report the stories which we feel need to be written for the good of the public. We recognize that this will make us unpopular at times and we accept that. Tai, though surrounded by what could be described as a mob, remained for the most part calm and collected. He, like the staff of The Campus, had a job to do. We support Tim Tai.