Daily Collegian Photographer Charged in Riot at PSU

First, just for fun, an announcement: I pen this post from Hong Kong, meaning I have now blogged about college media while in four countries (HK, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore).  I write this in the spirit of The Poynter Institute’s esteemed Al Tompkins, who notes with a smile at the start of a How to Vlog video he filmed while in Anchorage, Alaska, “I do admit that Anchorage has nothing to do with this video, but since I’m here I thought I’d mention it, in an attempt to impress you.” 


OK, onto the news at hand: A photographer for The Daily Collegian at Penn State University faces charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse from a late October post-football-victory riot he was covering for the paper.  According to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, cops twice asked him to scoot, at one point telling him his presence was actually inciting the crowd.  The photog contends he was simply doing his job calmly, acceding to every police request except vacating the scene.


It’s an interesting, age-old dilemma, and one that led me on a random new media thought tangent related to this question: What will happen at a PSU football-related riot 10 years from now?  With the blogosphere getting evermore crowded and the line between citizen and journalist becoming blurrier than the global economic outlook (see NYU Local post), what protections will (and should) be in place to protect those “covering” a riot instead of participating in one? 


The Daily Collegian is a bread-and-butter college journalism outlet- sporting press cards, enjoying preexisting relationships with the authorities, and producing content that easily passes as “journalism” if police or the courts get curious.  What about the next wave?  What about the riot witness (or even active rioter) who refuses to disperse upon police request and screams journalistic immunity when arrested because he planned to share video of the experience on his popular blog?


My prediction, on a surprisingly chilly night in Hong Kong: The times will soon be a-changin’ in collegemediatopia.  Get out the riot gear.

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