Posts Tagged 'Al Tompkins'

Photographers, Police & the Law

Photo by discarted

Al Tompkins of puts out an incredibly useful daily tip sheet of ideas and issues called “Al’s Morning Meeting” that journalists can then localize and adapt for their own communities. In response to the recent Gizmodo article, “Are Cameras the New Guns?“,  he interviewed Robb Harvey and Richard Goehler, two lawyers specializing in media issues, about the tension between law enforcement and photographers. It’s an excellent interview with a lot of salient points about photographers’ rights.

Al Tompkins: Are you seeing any new sensitivity by police to being photographed/videotaped?

Robb Harvey: The police have always been sensitive to accusations of wrongdoing or overreacting. I believe they are reacting to emerging technologies that allow millions of people to record events in real time, so we are likely to see more postings claiming misconduct and more efforts by police to prevent those postings.

The recent prosecutions mentioned in the Gizmodo article involved participants in the police action — persons being arrested or later charged. The video they have taken may be their best defense to the charges. Is the next step that law enforcement can prosecute recordings by bystanders? If that were the case, the widely disseminated video of the assault on Rodney King might never have seen the light of day.

Media organizations must remain vigilant and work to prevent the application of these laws in an unconstitutional way.

Richard Goehler: I would not say that I have seen any “new” sensitivity by law enforcement or firefighters here. In the past, I have heard about instances where police might confiscate or threaten to take a camera or recorder, but I would not call it a major newsgathering problem or interference.

I found the Gizmodo article very interesting. It seems to me that most of the cases highlighted in the article involved circumstances in which the videotaping or recording was of alleged abuse and/or improper conduct by the police. As a result, the police appeared more aggressive and more motivated to take action concerning the videotaping.

Often it appeared that the actions by law enforcement were in direct retaliation for the videotaping that had taken place. It was also interesting that these cases all took place in states or jurisdictions that have “two-party consent” statutes that let police officers make the argument that they had not consented to the videotaping.

Another interesting point about the cases in the article is that none of them involved traditional/mainstream media companies/reporters/videographers in their news gathering efforts. My sense is that law enforcement, even in a “two-party consent” state or jurisdiction, would be very cautious about trying to pursue claims like this against the media because doing so would surely bring a huge amount of attention and publicity with plenty of amicus support from other media organizations and journalism groups like the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Read the whole article on

Best of Times for Photojournalists

Over at the journalists’ resource PoynterOnline, Al Tompkins recently did a post on the shift underway in photography toward video and the DSLR as the must-have gear.

Tompkins does a mini-interview with photographer Ami Vitale, who says this is a great time to be a photojournalist. (Clearly she hasn’t heard that journalism is imploding.) She explains:

We have more tools available than ever before and we also have an audience bigger than anytime in the history of mankind. It’s powerful, and I’d like to harness these tools and use them to communicate and create understanding in a complex world where messages are so easily misunderstood. I see this as a wonderful time to exploit all these tools for the power of good!

But as a commenter points out, the price of upgrading to remain competitive can be prohibitive, if not downright impossible, when you consider the Canon IDMK4 costs about $5,000. Most newsrooms certainly don’t have this money, and if it falls to the individual, then it seems photojournalism will increasingly be about economics.

Article via PoynterOnline

%d bloggers like this: