VIDEO: Reporter Arrests (Cameras, Constitution, Consequences)

This presentation discusses the disturbing trend of reporter arrests during George Floyd-related protests, focusing on how the camera has caused a power shift in the authority of police and the practice of journalism.

Goals of the presentation:

  • To show how cameras have documented social ills in society.
  • To review reporter arrests in recent George Floyd protests.
  • To cite legal ramifications associated with constitutional rights: freedom of press and assembly, unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process.
  • To document how cameras and wireless technology have caused a power shift in society affecting authority of police and practice of journalism.
  • To make recommendations (a) for curricular changes in general education and (b) for reporters covering protests.


What makes a journalist — the person or the device?

By Michael Bugeja Iowa Capital Dispatch

Demonstrators stand in front law enforcement who are holding a perimeter during protest on June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Reporter arrests and assaults continue to rise during ongoing George Floyd protests with more than 300 violations of First Amendment rights, according to U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Incidents have been captured on video. This compilation includes the blinding in one eye of freelance photographer Linda Tirado.

Des Moines Register reporters Andrea Sahouri and Katie Akin also were assaulted and arrested, according to Editor Carol Hunter. Akin said “I’m press” or “I’m with the Des Moines Register” 17 times in about 30 seconds.

It didn’t help.

Huffington Post reporter Christopher Mathias was arrested covering the protest in New York. Here’s a partial transcript:

Mathias: “Can you look at my press pass? I’m a journalist. You’re arresting a journalist right now.”

Officer: “Then you should’ve gotten out of my way.

Mathias: “I did get out of your way, you ran past me. Can you please get my phone? It’s right there. Please get my phone.”

Officer: “Shut the f**k up. Get him out of here, let’s go.”

In video after video, police focus as much on the cellphone as on the person holding the device.

Technology changes media history. We have a new chapter.

In 2013, Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright covered the arrest of a suspect on a public street. An officer tells her to stop taping on her iPhone. She identifies herself as a member of the press but the officer says, “I don’t care who you are” and confiscates the phone.

Wright and the officer tussle over the phone, and he arrests her. Upon release, she discovered the memory card of her phone was missing.

Outcry was huge.

The professional photographer’s blog, PDNPulse, wrote that the police had “a public relations mess on its hands” violating Wright’s First Amendment rights. It also noted “the Detroit police department has apologized to the paper’s editors, and promised to issue a directive reminding officers that they can’t interfere with anyone videotaping them in public.”

Wright still works for the Free Press and was among journalists in Detroit covering a protest when police opened up on them with tear gas and rubber bullets. A projectile struck a bystander.

A new normal is being established. Increasingly, reporters may be fair game for assaults and arrests even if they identify themselves documenting history as it happens.

The issue seems more about how history is being documented, on camera, than by whom, raising the question about what makes a journalist: the person or the device?

In 2013 when Wright was arrested, the iPhone 5 was a sixth generation cellphone with a 1.3Ghz processor with 1 GB of Ram. Its main feature was an 8 megapixel camera that was 40% faster than its predecessors.

Those features pale compared with the 2020 iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle, wide angle, and telephoto lens capability. It excels in live broadcast with a processor and neural engine delivering more than 1 trillion operations per second.

In other words, it can capture just about anything within a 120-degree field of view. And you can buy one for about $1,000.

Some 80% of Americans have cellphones, and 45% of those are iPhones, with its popular demographic being users ages 18-34.

Those users have in pockets a device whose main purpose is a telephone but that functions as telegraph (messaging), radio station (audio), television station (video), blogging (newspaper), live streaming (film crew) and multimedia (all of the above).

The cellphone, in particular, the iPhone, empowers citizens as well as journalists to document what happens in the street, classroom, boardroom — any room or physical space.

Increasingly, citizens tape police arrests that purportedly violate human rights as well as constitutional safeguards.

Citizens have First Amendment rights just as journalists do, and violations thereof can be actionable in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S. Code § 1983, which protects against “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.”

One class action suit already has been filed in Minnesota. Lead plaintiff Jared Goyette reportedly told police he was a member of the press covering protests but was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.

“Without journalists there, police or other people in power can feel a sense of impunity that no one will see what’s happening anyway,” Goyette says. “Everyone needs to know people are watching.”

And the camera enables that.

Reporters are trained to document rather than doctor content, especially video and photographs. They typically have a bachelor’s degree heavily weighted in the liberal arts and sciences and skills classes involving mastery of equipment. Most important, they study media law and ethics.

Reporters also are held to professional standards and face termination and litigation themselves if they intentionally mislead the public or fabricate information.

Education is key in the debate about reporter arrests, and police need some now about free press and assembly rights.

Reporters and citizens whose cellphones are confiscated should inform police that they do not consent to searches of the device on grounds of Fourth Amendment freedom from incidental seizures.

In the past, beauty was said to be in the eye of the beholder. For better or worse, media history now is in the lens of the holder.

Technology’s role in journalism protest arrests: How phones have changed things

Technology played a major role in gutting media outlets. Further, the public used to rely on reporters to cover spot news, but the cellphone enabled everyone to do the same.

The Lurid Legacy of Coronavirus: Fear of Humanity


Back off! Social distancing was already a problem before coronavirus. (Photo by Getty Images)

Do you remember thriving downtowns, even in rural areas, with cafes, diners, restaurants and maybe even lunch wagons; hardware, clothes, book and department stores (some with lunch counters); TV-, car- and shoe-repair shacks; smoke, pet, barber, beauty, music and antique shops?

Then the mall opened. Maybe a Walmart superstore, and slowly several of those hometown landmarks went bust.

For more than a quarter century, megamalls had served as the main gathering place. Then came Internet and online shopping with eBay and Amazon, sparking a retail apocalypse.

In 2016, J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s and Sears each closed more than 100 outlets. Every year, one after the other, major chains filed bankruptcy. In 2019 alone, more than 9,300 popular stores shut their doors, the biggest year ever for closings, according to Yahoo Finance.

The exodus from physical place affected houses of worship. By 2018, Gallup found at an all-time low the percentage of Americans who belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Only 50 percent of respondents attended services, down from about 70 percent between 1937 through 1999. The drop-off intensified in the ensuing 20 years.

People were disappearing altogether. Parks and libraries often were empty. Children played video games, patrons checked out eBooks. Teens texted into the wee hours in locked bedrooms. Adults ran apps on androids instead of laps in recreation centers.

By 2018, Americans were spending 11 hours per day looking at screens instead of each other. Factor in six hours sleep, and that’s 75 percent of waking hours.

The great outdoors used to mean nature — hiking, gardening, bird-watching, swimming, fishing and hunting. It still means that for some of us. But for many, the outdoors came to mean simply leaving houses and offices, navigating physical space in cars the way a submarine navigates the sea.

And yet, some downtown stores managed to survive. Some malls stayed open. Churches, synagogues and mosques welcomed the faithful. Parks and libraries were maintained, and community centers provided meeting spaces.

When we needed a break from social media, we could stow smartphones and wander the half-closed Main Streets and malls. We soul-searched on occasion with congregations. We relaxed in parks, exercised in gyms and patronized Ticketmaster for large gatherings at concerts and sporting events.

In this election year, political rallies were attended by hundreds of thousands.

Then came the coronavirus, and everything stopped, closed, or was banned or canceled.

The coronavirus has demon-like characteristics. You can have it with no apparent symptoms and spread it within close proximity of a neighbor. It takes a while to activate within a carrier, so you can test negative on a Tuesday and still spread it on a Thursday.

There are many fears in this life. Top ones are known by the suffix “phobia,” as in acrophobia, fear of heights; claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces; entomophobia, fear of insects; ophidiophobia, fear of snakes; astraphobia, fear of storms; and trypanophobia, fear of needles.

But of all the terrors, one in particular is the most intense in all of us: fear of the unknown.

Coronavirus taps into this, triggering panic behaviors.

Handshakes, a symbol of peace tracing back to the 5th century B.C., are forbidden. Yes, for good reason, because the virus is apt to be there. Even President Trump has found it hard not to extend a hand. At a news conference about the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported that the president continued “to shake hands with other speakers, many of whom are members of the White House Task Force charged with trying to stem the disease.”

Because of the emphasis on hands, sanitizers quickly vanished from store shelves. Hoarders bought crates of them. According to the New York Times, one Tennessee man bought 17,700 bottles to sell at exorbitant prices on eBay and Amazon before those online companies prohibited him and others for price gouging.

purellNevertheless, I checked Amazon on March 15 and found one seller “discounting” a one-ounce bottle of Purell sanitizer for $342.80.

Things are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. Sooner or later, a vaccine will be developed, and we can all go about living our digital, cloistered lives.


For almost two decades, I have documented the erosion of community because of technology, noting how it would change culture and, ultimately, ethical values established in time, place and society: truth-telling, fairness, responsibility and civility. I am not optimistic.

The coronavirus has set a dangerous precedent — that everyday human contact can be deadly. As such, social distancing will continue as long as we can be distantly social on Facebook and Instagram.

The real challenge for the multitudes who will survive this scare is learning to trust each other again, in person, with a handshake sans sanitizer. The alternative — continued, deeper, damaging self-isolation —may be the lurid legacy of this crisis.

We will need leadership at all levels of government as well as in our schools, churches, homes and work places to avoid that viral scenario.

Instructions to Hold Virtual Classes Using Canvas

Teachers using the educational software Canvas can utilize the “conferences” function to hold online classes for the duration of your institution’s ban on face-to-face classes due to the corona virus crisis. Below are step-by-step instructions.







STEP SEVEN: 1. FILL IN THE DESCRIPTION OF THE CONFERENCE 2. INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS. 3. CLICK UPDATE. NOTE: You can unclick the box and invite individual students




STEP ELEVEN: SHARE COMPUTER SCREEN OR LECTURE URL. Note: If you want students to see a PowerPoint or Photoshop or any other application, click the “Application Window” tab.


STEP TWELVE: GO TO YOUR LECTURE BROWSER TAB TO SCROLL DOWN AS YOU SPEAK NOTE: Your students will see your scroll. Toggle back and forth as appropriate.


  1. CLICK HERE for student instructions on how to use the “conferences” tab on Canvas.
  2. You should alert your students if you are using this function. Schedule a trial run, perhaps.
  3. You can call on individual students. Ask them to hit the video camera on their screen and they will appear for all to see.
  4. You can record your conference and reuse it.

Student Instructions to Attend Virtual Classes via Canvas

Follow these procedures to join your teacher’s Virtual Classroom. You must be enrolled in one of his or her sections using Canvas educational software. Classes may be scheduled online when  your institution closes for weather-related or flu-related emergency reasons.


You will receive via your institution’s email an invitation to join a live conference.


Click “Conferences.”


Click on the icon so your voice is activated.


Be sure to click allow


Test the microphone and click “yes” if you can hear your voice.


On occasion, you may be asked to participate via your phone or computer webcam. Click  allow  and  start  sharing.


Do NOT click the video button unless your instructor calls on you to answer a question or you want to ask him or her a question. After you ask the question or participate in the discussion, you can click off your video and your picture will disappear from the class screen.


There may be times your instructor asks you to share a photo or digital product. Or you may want to show the class a website. In that case, click the “Share Screen” button below.


Perhaps you might want to share a file in one of your folders, a video, a presentation or a photo in Photoshop. In that case, ask Dr. B for permission. If he grants it, hit the application tab and then choose the program you want to share. NOTE: You should close all non-class related applications or content you do not want the class to see. 


You may want to share a link to your blog or a news or information site. In that case, you should ask the instructor for permission and then hit the browser tab. NOTE: Be sure to close out any open tab that you do not want to share with the class. Very important for privacy!


This is your window into your section as if you were seated in your instructor’s class. Follow all the rules of engagement as if you were face to face.


You can log out of the class at any time if you have to leave the session for an appointment or when the class ends. Be sure, however, to close your Canvas tab as well.

In case you have any difficulty accessing the virtual session via Canvas, please contact your institution’s computer support number.

Technology, Cheating and Loss of Trust

The Houston Astros used technology to help win the 2017 World Series. Students cheat using cell phones, wireless earbuds, spyglasses and smart watches. The speed and stealth of technology are too tempting to resist. But the desire to win at all costs has its downside, too.

The Houston Astros baseball team may have won the 2017 World Series with a little help from technology, but the sign-stealing scandal had deeper repercussions than the penalties imposed by the Commissioner’s Office.

The penalties were the harshest possible under current rules: Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch were fired, and the team fined $5 million with loss of first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

The scheme involved use of a centerfield camera fixed on the opposing team’s catcher relaying signs to the pitcher: fast ball, change up, curve, and so on. The video was relayed to a monitor in a hidden space in the dugout. Once the sign was decoded, a trash can was banged to signal what the next pitch would be.

This had to be done within a second or two, but the speed of technology allowed it.

Once discovered, the scandal cast doubt on every game the Astros won with its cheating system. That was unfortunate, too, because the team was immensely talented and probably would have won the series without cheating.

As the New York Times noted, the effort wasn’t especially needed as in “2017 Houston hit .279 at home with 115 home runs and a .472 slugging average. On the road, where elaborate sign-stealing should theoretically have been more difficult, the Astros hit .284 with 123 home runs and a .483 slugging average.”

But the real damage was to the sport and, more specifically, to the business of baseball. According to another Times report, “The business of baseball depends on the public’s belief in the legitimacy of the competition. That is the implicit deal between the league and fans, and without that trust, everything falls apart.”

That’s the ethical lesson, too. Cheating obliterates trust. Often, it isn’t needed except to insure a winning season … or semester.

Last year Forbes published an article titled “How Technology Is Being Used By Students To Cheat On Tests,” describing how students use wireless earbuds connected to smartphones in backpacks with pre-recorded content related to exams. Other tech-related cheating involved Google glasses with pre-programmed answers and even smartwatches connecting to third-party off-site accomplices transmitting answers.

Temptation is part of the human experience. However, technology has spawned new strategies that some people just cannot resist because of ambition, greed or monetary reward.

When dealing with temptation, ethical people consider consequences, which often are greater than cheaters initially anticipate. They ponder the worst-case scenario and whether they are able to pay that price.

The price usually involves something worse than loss of a job or promotion, or a failing grade on a test or course; it can result in loss of trust, triggering irreparable harm to a person’s career or future.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine focuses on how omnipresent technology undermines personal and professional values at home, school and work.

Deadly Censorship: China and Coronavirus

Whistlerblower physician Li Wenliang who warned the world about the deadly coronavirus and was punished by police for spreading rumors, contracted the disease and died in Wuhan Central Hospital. He was hailed a hero on the mircoblogging site Weibo, which carried the hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech (now banned). His case shows the dangers of a world without journalism.

In the wake of his death, The Guardian reported “outrage and frustration felt across China over the initial cover-up of the deadly virus.” Some 1.5 billion Weibo users alone expressed their anger and grief on how Dr. Li had been treated.

According to the Guardian, Li was one of eight people detained for spreading rumors about the dangerous disease, with “the fates of the other seven, also believed to be medical professionals,” still unknown.

Government censorship not only silences truth but also often counters with propaganda and misinformation to minimize the impact on policy and national image. An example occurred with the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in then Soviet Ukraine, which threatened all of Europe. To this day, the death toll from the meltdown has yet to be disclosed but has been estimated between 4,000 and 27,000 people.

The New York Times has reported that China had 20,438 confirmed cases of the disease as of early February. During the SARS outbreak, at this time, it had 5,327 cases.

A pandemic risks the lives of thousands.

Conversely, a free press saves lives. Censorship kills, as history has shown us from Chernobyl to coronavirus. Worse, in the absence of journalism, social media spreads misinformation that scientists have difficulty addressing or correcting. That has led to the term “infodemic,” prompting the World Health Organization to work with tech companies to minimize falsehoods about the coronavirus and other diseases.

‘App-ocalypse’ in the Iowa caucus

Did party officials forget about Murphy’s Law?

Ericka Petersen, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, brought her two children, ages 3 and 1, to the Iowa satellite caucus in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Robin Bravender, States Newsroom.)

Technology changes everything it touches, without itself being changed much at all. Introduce it into the economy, and the economy is all about technology. Introduce it into education, and education is about the technology. Introduce it into elections, and you have the Iowa Democratic Caucus.

The value of the caucus is multi-fold, and many in media fail to appreciate the community and communal aspects of it. You meet with neighbors in your district. You get a card with a front and back ballot. You name your first choice on the front ballot, and if that candidate garners a set minimum of votes to be viable, you’re done. But you also get a second chance if your candidate is declared not viable because too few people supported them. You can vote for another favorite.

You can’t do that in a voting booth.

Thereafter, though, the process becomes complicated. Very complicated.

A phone app was going to make that all so simple. Uh-huh.

Instead, they listened to technology advocates who sell apps by touting Moore’s Law, with speed and capabilities doubling every few years. We know another law, Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will.Anytime you use technology, you need a Plan B. Anyone who uses technology — from PowerPoint presentations to Skype conferences — has a Plan B. The Iowa Democratic Party didn’t have one.

That’s what happened.

The New York Times was all over this phenomenon, reporting that the app was created by Shadow Inc., a for-profit company. The Times cited Georgetown computer science professor Matt Blaze who stated the obvious: Apps rely on dependable digital networks and operating smartphones to run properly. “The consensus of all experts who have been thinking about this is unequivocal. Internet and mobile voting should not be used at this time in civil elections.”

The app-ocalypse in Iowa might very well bring an end to the state’s caucus and its first-in-the-nation status. Political pundits often criticize the state with its near 3 million residents, and 94% white population, as being non-representative of the nation’s identity. But Iowa’s caucus does offer something of value: It affords candidates a chance to visit with just about everyone of all social classes and interact with us in everyday environments in the year or more leading up to the vote.

All that is in jeopardy, and not only because of the app.

As of this writing, it has been 12 hours since the caucusing ended, and the media are taking prisoners. Here’s a sampling of news stories:


We’re all living in accelerated digital time. Technology does that. We want what we want when we want it: on demand. We want data on demand. We want to know. Who won, who lost, what’s the meaning of all this? TV talking heads were poised to answer all of that.

One humorous aspect of the no-result Iowa caucus is how irritated media organizations become with their pricey pundits in downsized newsrooms having absolutely nothing to talk about. It was mildly enjoyable seeing CNN’s Wolf Blitzer grow apoplectic as the evening progressed, trying to rally panels of experts to say something, anything, other than “we’re waiting for results.”

Presidential candidates had planes to catch and wanted to flee Iowa even though the weather, at least for Iowans, was a balmy 30+ degrees on caucus night.

In the end, we will know who won the caucus. The results will be accurate because — and this is important, everyone, so please listen up — we’re not talking “hanging chads.” There are voting cards with our names on them and precinct captains have those cards in their possession.

In the meantime, the media circus will have moved on to New Hampshire. The Iowa results will have less of an impact because state party officials relied on technology instead of common sense.

They used an app called Shadow, and it cast a shadow on the future of our caucus.