Saturday, May 4, 2013

Know your rights as a photographer

"Shoot or Don't Shoot" moderator Alicia Calzada alongside panelists Bob Owen and Marvin Hurst listen to Dario Ramos, videographer for KENS 5, recount his encounter with an angry landowner who pushed him to the ground while he was filming.
By Jacob Beltran

Panelist Darios Ramos, videographer for KENS 5, continued shooting even though his wrist was grabbed and he was thrown to the ground by an angry homeowner.

The video was the first of three examples of when to keep shooting, despite being told not to. These stories and other were told by Ramos and panelist Marvin Hurst, reporter for KENS 5, as part of the “Shoot or Don’t Shoot” panel for the Society of Professional Journalists Region 8 Conference.

In the footage, the team had been covering wildfires that spread onto private property that was owned by several people. But when Ramos was attacked by the landowner, the two were still within their rights to broadcast video on the property because the owners did not have an agreement to stop them.

“The important thing is to maintain professionalism,” Hurst said. “We could’ve done all kinds of things but it wouldn’t have helped the legal situation.”

Another video shown at the panel included a fight between two transsexuals that erupted at a gas station as Ramos had stepped out of the news van. Ramos continued shooting, even as one of them approached him to take his camera.

Ramos said afterwards, Hurst and his team discussed whether they should use the footage.

They asked themselves “was it good T.V. for us for about 30 seconds? Yes. would it win an award? No. Was there great narrative behind it? No. After talking with our producers, we decided we would show it.”

Dealing with emotions

Asked if he experienced anything similar, panelist Bob Owen, photographer for the San Antonio Express-News, said in emotional situations, people try to block the camera, and that more abrasive people will grab the lens.

While covering the sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base, Owen said that air force personnel grabbed the camera of another photographer and pulled him aside.

He said that in situations where people and officials request photographers not to shoot, it’s best to step back onto public property and continue to shoot from there.

Owen said journalists have learned to build a wall between themselves and the emotion of what’s happening. “I stay composed,” he said, “but boy howdy when I’m back at the office, I just have to walk away from them sometimes.”

When not to shoot

Moderator Alicia Calzada recalled a moment when she decided not to shoot. She said a vehicle sped by her at 90 mph while she was on her way home. The vehicle hit another car and exploded. When she pulled over to the side, Calzada said she didn’t shoot because she didn’t want being a journalist to interfere. She said that she testified in court and the driver received 10 years in prison.

Calzada suggested that journalists discuss with their respective news outlets what to do in certain situations, to avoid any conflicts that may arise on the job.

Ramos said that despite the situation, it’s important to keep shooting, otherwise you miss important moments. “It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for something to happen, it’s better just to roll,” he said. “When that thing happens, you can’t go back in time and hit the button.”

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