In a recent memo to staff, Chattanooga Times Free Press Executive Editor J. Todd Foster says law enforcement were less than welcoming to journalists covering the recent tornado. Foster wrote that Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and County Emergency Services Director Don Allen all have been sent a letter by the paper’s attorney informing them of First Amendment violations.
As the TheChatanoogan.com reports:
The April 29 Foster memo says, “I can’t say enough about the extraordinary journalism this newsroom has practiced the past two days. Contributions came from all over the room and every section. Some of our journalists had to dodge downed power lines, frog-strangling rains and Nazi cops to gather the news. I’ve heard praise from local readers and from journalists across the country.
“Attached are letters written by our attorney, Bud Jackson, to police officials who threatened two of our journalists with arrest. Keep up the great work and know this organization has your back.”
Both sides play an important role in a disaster. Of course the first responders need to do their jobs, but media can bring the story to a wide audience — and that in turn brings attention, supplies, donations, help, support. Would they prefer it’s ignored and no one knows the extent of the damage? I don’t get bullying the media in a situation like this where it so obviously can make a difference.