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Media Who Went to Bat for Shut-Out Critics Should Also Stand Up for Targeted Copwatchers

Washington Post: Disney Just Got Clobbered for Bullying the Los Angeles Times

Washington Post (11/7/17) applauds media for standing up to the Mouse.

In September, the LA Times ran a two-part series on the tax and other benefits the Disney corporation managed to extract in Anaheim, California (9/24/17), and its efforts to influence city council elections (9/26/17). In a particularly hamfisted retaliatory move, Disney (though it didn’t call for any actual corrections) barred LA Times reporters from advance press screenings for its movies.

Journalists took umbrage: The Washington Post‘s Alyssa Rosenberg (11/6/17) said she’d boycott the screenings until Disney backed down. The New York Times agreed, issuing a statement saying, “A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like” is a “dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.” The National Society of Film Critics and others disqualified Disney from awards (Variety, 11/7/17).

This week, citing “productive discussions” with LA Times leadership, Disney rescinded the ban. “Journalistic solidarity,” claimed the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple (11/7/17), served notice to Disney and “all prospective bullies: We media types sometimes do live up to the glorious principles that we mouth at panel discussions.”

It was indeed a commendable action. So. Maybe now they’ve got this solidarity thing going, with the glorious principles and the concern about the powerful punishing people for stories they don’t like, corporate media could stretch the idea enough to see where solidarity is needed on issues perhaps even more pressing than whether you got your Thor: Ragnorok review before opening night or a day after.

Ramsey Orta (image: Democracy Now!)

Citizen-journalist Ramsey Orta  (image: Democracy Now!)

Ramsey Orta filmed New York police choking his friend Eric Garner to death on a Staten Island sidewalk in 2014. Since then, Orta and others believe he has been targeted by police, raiding his home and arresting him on questionable drug charges and then for “obstructing governmental administration” when he filmed another arrest. As activist/writer Josmar Trujillo reminds at (11/8/17), after Orta took a plea in 2015, an unnamed NYPD source told the New York Daily News, “He took the video,” alluding to the Garner tape, “now we took the video,” referring to surveillance footage police claim showed Orta selling drugs.

Ramsey Orta has no formal training or press credentials. He’s from the streets of New York, and he’s had constant contact with the criminal justice system. Just the qualities, Trujillo notes, that can make it easier to connect to people on the ground, particularly in communities of color, where there’s often suspicion and resentment towards reporters—and that make citizen-journalists like Orta uniquely effective in creating media for those usually left out.

The failure of establishment journalists to support or acknowledge him points to the need to challenge some imaginary lines. What the LA Times was doing with its Anaheim story, and what Orta was doing with the Garner video, are the same activity: getting information to the public that’s meaningful—not least because it’s information powerful forces don’t want the public to see. Source:

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