I wrote a post this morning that illustrated how the same event could be interpreted in different ways, depending on who was telling the story. Here’s another, perhaps better case.
On Monday, FetchYourNews.com published the story of how Nydia Tisdale was arrested after she was asked to stop filming a Republican campaign event at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawson County. The story (complete with video of the occurrence) painted Tisdale as a citizen journalist who was badly mistreated, and whose arrest should embarrass anyone who values the first amendment.
The FYN story and video was relayed by the AJC’s Political Insider, and drew a press release denouncing Governor Deal from the Jason Carter gubernatorial campaign.
Watching this, and a similar sympathetic reaction on social media, I posted on Facebook, “Nydia Tisdale is becoming a martyr. That’s exactly what she wanted to be, and it’s a shame.”
Now comes DawsonNews.com with perhaps a more honest telling of what happened Saturday afternoon. The story quotes Johnny Burt, the farm’s owner as saying,
“I told [Sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten], ‘Have her cut the recorder off.’ He went up to her and she refused,” Burt said. “Then I told him to get her out. He asked to her leave politely, very politely, and she refused to leave. So he had no choice but to forcefully remove her.
“She tried to hit Tony with the camera and he had to remove the camera from her hand and she slapped him in the face and I saw that. Tony only done what he was asked to do by the property owner and that was me.”
Had she cooperated with the request to stop recording, Burt said she could have stayed.
“If she had in the least cooperated, just cut her camera off, and sat there through the meeting and asked all the questions she wanted to at the end, it would have perfectly fine. But she misrepresented herself to start with,” he said.
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with many political trackers. Every time we would ask one to turn off his or her camera, it was turned off. And I’ll say that I fully support Tisdale’s right to record a public meeting.
Did Tisdale have the right to film the event, given it was billed as open to the public? In the DawsonNews story, Sheriff Billy Carlisle clarified the property owner has the right to eject a guest, even at a public event.
One way to avoid situations like this is to set ground rules for media coverage well before the event starts. And, that’s what the Forsyth County Republican Party has done. In an ironic bit of timing, the party published its new media policy on Tuesday. It’s very well done, defining how meetings are defined to be open to the press, defining what constitutes the press, and specifying how to obtain media credentials to cover an open event. It can serve as a model for other party organizations to adopt.
Even better, the party announced it would be making its own videos of events and posting them on YouTube. That will provide transparency, and eliminate the possibility of doctored or heavily edited video being the only record of an event.
And, I bet Nydia Tisdale would not have received media credentials under the party’s new policy.