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Commentary: Journalists under threat in Uvalde
Our chapter president, Michael Drudge, wrote a column about the intimidation and resistance journalists are facing after the tragic school shooting in Uvalde. The column first appeared in the San Antonio Express-News on June 7, 2022.
Michael W. Drudge, For the Express-News
The journalism community is alarmed by the threats and intimidation news media have faced trying to report the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde.
It began last Wednesday when police threatened news crews with arrest for criminal trespassing while journalists waited at the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District office in hope of interviewing UCISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo. The next day, police leveled the same threat at reporters trying to cover the funerals of shooting victims.
Police have kept reporters and camera crews blocks away from Sacred Heart Catholic Church during funeral Masses. Police from agencies across the state have strategically parked vehicles to block video and photographic coverage. Motorcycle club members have confronted news crews outside the church, claiming to act on behalf of the police. Tensions are high. Nerves are raw.
Adding to the problems journalists face is a virtual news blackout on the part of state and local authorities.
Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez represents Uvalde. He’s been a high-profile news source with contacts inside the Texas Department of Public Safety. He revealed Friday that a DPS official told him Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee ordered DPS not to release any more information to the senator or the public. The Associated Press reported Friday the DPS referred all questions to Busbee, who did not return phone calls and text messages from the Associated Press.
For their part, police are understandably on edge, particularly at the UCISD. Arredondo has been widely criticized for not acting more quickly to confront the shooter. Arredondo has had extra security placed around him. And Uvalde is a small city with no experience handling such intense scrutiny from media around the world.
There is widespread empathy among journalists for the pain and suffering Uvalde is experiencing. Many journalists are parents or grandparents, aunts and uncles of children just like those slain at Robb Elementary School. Journalists have fought back tears, live on TV, while reporting on this tragedy.
And journalists have been following an obligation to practice ethical norms as they report.
These standards have been on display in Uvalde.
Journalists have treated the relatives of victims and the survivors with respect. They have told moving stories about the dead. And they have reported as much as we can learn so far about the shooter without sensationalizing the crime.
The Uvalde story is far from finished. Journalists will continue to seek answers to the many unanswered questions. We ask for understanding and cooperation from police and civil authorities. The public relies on all of us to get to the truth and report it.
The Ranger’s rebirth, revival must endure
The San Antonio Express-News published a letter from Michael Drudge, the president of the San Antonio Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, about the future of Alamo Colleges’ student newspaper. In the letter, Drudge offered SPJSA’s assistance in reinventing the school’s journalism program. Below is a copy of the letter.