by Amber Dougherty // Contributing Writer
Three panelists visited MTSU to discuss the reality of reporting the riots after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, in Tucker Theatre on Tuesday night.
David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer and videographer, Antonio French, St. Louis 21st Ward alderman and Yamiche Alcindor, USA Today reporter, shared their perspectives of what it was like to be in Ferguson and discussed the issues of reporting a high-profile case.
“Usually when you cover a story you aren’t in your hometown,” Carson said. “[In Ferguson] You’re trying to look at your daughter and you’re thinking about Ferguson. It really did consume a lot of the reporters that were out there.”
Our panelists recalled times that they questioned their safety while in Ferguson.
“The first night I was actually scared it felt like anarchy,” Alcindor said. “Sometimes you have to take your safety into account and measure the value of your story.”
The panel explained how people’s primary news source impacted the way they saw the story. Twitter was the first medium that started influencing people and led to how the Ferguson case became national news fast.
“I think what changed the elements was that first night of rioting and looting and seeing the images that came out,” French said. “What I saw… was that people had been trying to be heard for days and the lesson they took away was the only way you can be heard is if you set something on fire. That’s a damaging, awful thing for a democracy.”
The panel worked to show a different, more human side of the chaos.
“The closer you were to the story, the more you saw people as individuals,” French said.
On-site videos and pictures were shown in addition to the panelists comments.
“I thought the most remarkable thing about tonight’s panel discussion was that we saw a major news event explored from the perspectives of three different people,” Ken Paulson, Dean of the College of Mass Communication, said.
The event was hosted by The John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU in the hope that .
“I hope the take-away [from this event] for students is that our civil liberties and first amendment rights live and breathe every single day and the people on the front lines are journalists,” Pat Embry, director of the Seigenthaler Chair, said.
The late first amendment and civil right’s activist’s wife Dolores Seigenthaler was among those in attendance.
“I think [my husband] would be happy to see so many students here that are interested in civil rights situations because he thought it was so important for [civil rights issues] to be solved,” Seigenthaler said.
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