Index Newspaper LLC v. City Of Portland
Journalists were heavily targeted by federal agents while they covered the 2020 Portland protests and federal occupation. Young ones weren’t exempted.
Stun grenades were thrown at my feet, while I was marked as press and standing away from protesters. Several tear gas canisters were shot in my path while I was running away from federal agents and protesters. Federal agents pointed munitions guns at me several times and shoved me into a stone wall. At one point, I was standing off to the side with the press corps when a federal agent pointed his less-lethal munitions gun at me and was told by another agent “she’s press, don’t shoot.” He lowered his weapon momentarily and then raised it again, looked through the scope and pointed the gun right back at me.
My experiences are just a tiny part of the attacks targeting journalists perpetrated by Portland Police and federal law enforcement. These experiences represent a nationwide problem and violate the First Amendment.
Thus, I joined a lawsuit brought by journalists against the City of Portland and the Trump administration.
The lawsuit seeks to end the unconstitutional targeting of journalists in Portland. A TRO was issued by the U.S. District Court. The Trump Administration appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit, which ultimately upheld the lower court’s opinion that journalists cannot be forced to leave under unlawful assembly orders or be physically threatened by law enforcement in Portland.
This lawsuit and various legal issues that arose over the course of covering the protests highlight the lack of understanding of constitutional protections for the media. For example, Salem said that journalists were exempt from curfews, but Portland said they were not. It is crucial that we strengthen protections for journalists so that they are not left to the whims of cities or police departments. Protecting freedom of the press is something I am deeply passionate about. I am going to Georgetown University for college and hope to work on legislation protecting journalists while I’m in DC.
First Amendment Press Freedom Award
In 2019, when I was in training to become Editor-in-Chief, the Clypian was awarded the First Amendment Press Freedom Award. The award is given by JEA, NSPA, and the Quill and Scroll Society to schools who actively support, protect, and teach the First Amendment, as well as, give students the last say in content decisions.
This year, 2021, we won the award again.
Our paper remains completely student-run. The editorial staff makes final decisions on the content we cover, the tools we use to present that content, design decisions, and everything else. Our adviser is there to support us and give advice only.
Our paper works to retain good working relationships with the school district and school administrators. However, they do not have any power to do prior review or have any control over our coverage. That relationship also does not stop us from publishing hard-hitting stories about our district administration when necessary, such as the extensive investigation I did and published about our school board’s campaign finances. That article can be found in the Reporting & Writing section.
Ethics and Protest Coverage
Covering protests brings its own set of ethical dilemmas, which I have struggled with since I covered my first protest during my sophomore year. At the forefront is the issue of consent to be photographed. Protests typically take place in public places. Thus, consent becomes an ethical issue not a legal one. Legally, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place, so it is not illegal to photograph people in a public space, although people do not necessarily understand this or care.
I have had alt-right protesters armed with guns, surround me and demand my camera, because they didn’t want me taking pictures of their event and participants in a public park. They had no legal right to do that, but that did not stop them from intimidating me.
Despite the lack of legal issues, there are ethical considerations to take into account. Is it ethical to photograph a child without consent? Is there a moral obligation to consider if your photography may lead to the prosecution of someone for a crime you document them committing?
Based on the SPJ code of ethics and the NPAA Photo Bill of Rights, I created my own personal code of ethics. Personally, I only post photos of children if I have permission from the parents. With teenagers and adults, I make every effort to talk to the subject at some point, while also recognizing that at larger events, such as the Portland protests, talking to everyone I take a photo of would be impossible.
I was asked by one person to remove a photo of him from the cover of a story (left), because he did not like the way the day was covered. He was mad that the story reported on the conflict between counter-protesters and protesters. I told him that a request like that went against journalistic standards and that there is an obligation to cover everything that happened, as it happened.
I have been told to take down videos by a handful of left-wing protesters because they showed people committing crimes, such as lighting fire to the plywood outside the federal courthouse in Portland. They were also told no because as journalists we must present the whole truth, not parts.
This video of protesters attempted to light fire to the plywood on the outside of the federal courthouse recently sparked another ethical decision for me to make. Just two days after the January 6 insurrection, someone from FOX news reached out to me to try and get license to use that video. They asked to use the video taken of protesters “trying to set the federal courthouse on fire,” which I viewed as a misrepresentation of events as the courthouse is stone and will not burn.
Customarily, it is my practice to grant licenses of my works to other outlets because I fully support an informed public. However, when FOX reached out to me to use the video I was worried that the content and context would be misrepresented. Furthermore, I was concerned that because they were asking for a video from the July Black Lives Matter protests in January, right after the deadly insurrection, the video would be used to downplay the events of January 6.
So, I made the decision to deny them a license.
There are other ethical dilemmas to consider when covering protests, beyond consent and licensing, that I have had to deal with. One is dealing with competing narratives from protesters and law enforcement. Considering how to balance the stories of various people, each with some truth, I found particularly challenging as I strived to present the most accurate and complete picture possible.
Student Press Freedom Day 2021
Student Press Freedom Day this year (Feb. 26, 2021) was entitled “Journalism Against The Odds.” As part of the effort to spread the word about the day and provide the public with access to student journalists, the Student Press Law Center asked me to speak on a panel for FOX11’s Good Day LA.
I joined Amisha Sethi (another high schooler) and Madalyn Amato (a college student) for the panel about student journalism. We talked for nearly nine minutes about student journalism. In the interview, I discussed “What sparked my interest in the business,” how covering the protests changed my perspective about journalism (in a good way), and about how regular people can support student journalists.
It is incredibly important to expose everyday Americans to student journalists and provide people with the tools necessary to interact with our work. I have become very passionate about spreading awareness about student journalism and highlighting the work we do, so this was the perfect opportunity to help further that work.
Teaching 8th Graders
Prior to COVID-19, groups of 8th graders from local middle schools would come visit SSHS for two days each year. SSHS students would tell them about the different Career and Technical Education opportunities, including the student journalism program.
I made a point to meet with these 8th graders every year and tell them about all the programs we offer as a student media organization: traditional newspaper, radio, podcasting, social media, and photography. I also shared what we do in news production, answered questions, and showed them some examples of our work, handing out physical copies of the paper and bringing up our website.
I found the program extremely rewarding because it gave me the opportunity to connect with incoming students. It also potentially sparked an interest in journalism for some of these middle schoolers, even if they didn’t take the class.
Trust In Student Journalism
Our editorial staff and I work hard to create trust in our paper. We want to provide members of the community with another reliable source of information and to show the importance of student journalism.
When community members and students are provided with more sources of information that are reliable and accessible, they are less likely to get their news from faulty sources. To build trust, we had to create relationships with community members and people in our school, in addition to providing high quality content.
When we were in-person, staff members would deliver the print versions of our paper to classes, giving them the opportunity to interact with teachers and students. This tradition helped to humanize the newspaper.
We are currently working on creating an email list of people who want to support the Clypian and whom we should send biweekly story recaps to. More importantly, we have worked to cover a variety of community events so that we are a familiar and welcome presence. These two things, in turn, will create a stronger relationship with members of our community and we will remain a trusted source of news.
On a larger scale, I have worked to build trust not only in the Clypian, but in student journalism as a whole. In most interviews I’ve given, I made a point to talk about why student journalism is important. My hope is that people will hear me say this and some will take it to heart and support their local student journalists.
Furthermore, providing people with a student journalist that they see on their TV screen or in the paper, makes it seem more real. I have been able to show people, to an extent, that student journalists are credible sources and should be respected and supported.