By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director
The protests yesterday on the University of Missouri/Columbia campus were marked by something that should never have happened.
Tim Tai, a student photographer working as a freelancer for ESPN, was attempting to take photos of a tent city set up in a public area on campus, where an activist group was protesting recent event involving racial issues at the school.
Some protestors blocked Tai’s shots and argued with him. He stood his ground saying he had a job to do and intended to do it. The person taking video of the confrontation, Mark Schierbecker, was later approached by a woman who grabbed at his camera and is heard saying, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”
The woman was identified as Melissa Click—an assistant professor of mass media. If anyone should be well aware of First Amendment rights, it should be someone like Ms. Click. Her behavior in trying to stop Schierbecker from documenting these events is simply inexcusable. And we hope that she is not teaching her students how to find ways to circumvent such a fundamental right!
Admittedly, tensions can run high in situations like these—but there is absolutely no justification for these kinds of actions. Teachers are supposed to set examples from which students can learn. This is clearly a lesson in how not to do that.
RTDNA wholeheartedly supports the student journalists who were setting their own examples—good ones—about how to cover the news and not be deterred in their efforts to do so.
On Tuesday afternoon, Missouri's School of Journalism issued a statement about the incident.
Late Tuesday, Professor Click issued a statement of apology.
The Missourian reports Professor Click has resigned her courtesy appointment to the faculty to the MU J-school.