Arrest of P-D reporter underscores need for “Right to Report” campaign

Each day reporters and photographers find it more difficult to do their job. Journalists must fight harder for access and information. They are under attack from every angle.

Vulture capitalists are buying up newspapers and stripping down news-gathering operations to maximize profits.  Government officials have become more hostile towards those gathering real news. Police arrest reporters who are trying to chronicle events unfolding in public.

Those seeking to limit or even eliminate the free press from our society work to delegitimize quality reporting. Propagandists are polluting the information superhighway with fake news.

The hostility toward journalists has spread to the local level. St. Louis police arrested United Media Guild member Mike Faulk, a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,  while he was covering public demonstrations. Faulk was swept up in a mass arrest, roughed up by police and held for 13 hours despite breaking no laws.

“St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalists and other credentialed news media provide critical information to the public,” said Post-Dispatch Editor Gilbert Bailon. “When St. Louis police arrested Mike, after he fully identified himself while covering the protests, they violated basic tenets of our democracy. Additionally, the physical abuse he suffered during the arrest is abhorrent and must be investigated. The Post-Dispatch is calling for our city leaders to immediately implement policies that will prevent journalists from being arrested without cause.”

An attorney for the Post-Dispatch demanded that charges against Faulk be dropped. In a letter to Mayor Lyda Krewson, Acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole, City Counselor Julian Bush and Deputy City Counselor Michael Garvin, the lawyer also demanded that the city take steps to prevent “any recurrence of arrests of journalists who are covering these important events and who are engaged in no criminal activity whatsoever.”

Earlier this year, as former UMG president Tim O’Neil  lost part of a finger when an attorney for Sunset Hills slammed a door on him while he was attempting to cover a hearing as a reporter for the Post-Dispatch.

Such incidents underscore why the UMG, the national NewsGuild and our parent union, the Communications Workers of America, are pushing back with a multi-faceted “Right to Report” campaign.

This campaign includes a push for legislation that would make it felony to assault journalists doing their job. After all, an assault on journalists is an attack on the First Amendment — one of the cornerstones of our democratic society. This effort will start in states that already have “shield laws” on the books.

National legislation will be impossible to pass in the current political environment, but we must press the issue.

The Guild will continue key joining legal fights backing freedom of information and other First Amendment issues. The Guild has assembled a rapid response team to work with its new communications coordinator to address First Amendment issues that arise. The Guild is also joining forces with the Committee to Protect Journalists and other groups dedicated to protect the freedom of the press.

Posted by Mike Cabanatuan on Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Communications Workers of America delegates supported the “Defend the Right to Report” resolution presented the by The News Guild sector during its convention earlier this month in Pittsburgh.

The resolution declares the CWA’s support for:

  • The fight against attacks on journalists and the First Amendment.
  • National and state legislation that would make it a felony to assault journalists, including reporters, photographers and videographers.
  • The expansion of state shield laws.
  • Passage, enforcement and adherence to Freedom of Information laws at the federal, state and municipal levels.
  • Promoting alliances among groups that support journalists’ ability to perform their work unfettered.
  • Allowing journalists to cover public events, report on protests, and question officials without fear of arrest or other forms of intimidation.

The News Guild is also taking on hedge funds — like Alden Capital and Fortress Investment Group, which manages GateHouse Media properties — with national campaigns to highlight the damage they do to local newspapers and the communities they are trying to serve.

Remember: Every journalist joining the Guild joins the fight to protect our craft and save the First Amendment.

Reference: Alex Spiro.