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August 20, 2014

Losing Michael Brown to the Spectacle? — #Ferguson and the #Press

Is it concerning that print reporters and photojournalists are getting arrested and manhandled in Ferguson? Yes, it is. Understandably, each instance has gotten significant notice in the media- and the Twitter-sphere since Ferguson became #Ferguson (as David Carr put it). At the same time, however, it’s important to appreciate how much the inability to accommodate and manage a press corps reflects the same lack of competence that not only characterizes the day-to-day mismanagement of the case but would seems to underpin why Michael Brown is dead.

With context at a premium, it would be terrible if the media’s focus on itself, amplified by the Twitter rush and the Twitter feedback loop, would serve to obscure a more nuanced focus on the frustrations of Ferguson’s citizens or the fate of Mr. Brown.

If the images and the tension, as seen through the photos and the media lens, felt more raw and spontaneous last week, I can’t get a feel now — eyeballing Twitter and the visual flow — what is story and what is spectacle. With the small geographic footprint, the apparently small number of troublemakers and a city that presents a real challenge when it comes to parsing out those competence problems from sensitivity issues), I’m finding myself scaling back my diet of reporting and waiting for news.

If voices in the thread accompanying this Twit pic were apoplectic these guys (reportedly) were arrested for throwing a water bottle, what’s as interesting to me is all the sturm und drang here, with the compliment of the news truck.

As for the photo leading the post, it’s an interesting example of how a photo that read one way last week will read differently today. It was taken by Getty’s Scott Olson who himself was arrested the other day (the moment captured by colleague Joe Raedle) . The caption reads:

Al Jazeera journalists flee from their equipment after it is teargassed by police.

Yes, last week the photo described the ham handed and overly aggressive reaction to protesters by an overly militarized local police force, these reporters more representative of citizens in general. This week, on the other hand, the distinction as to role has completely shifted as the Michael Brown killing has had to make room for the war on the press.

More Ferguson at The Bag.

(photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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