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Friday, July 20, 2012

Pestka/Thomas Debate: What I Learned: ROJS News Op/Ed

ROJS News Op/Ed

Steve Pestka & Trevor Thomas
Photo Credit: Autumn Smith, ROJS Media

This is not the story I planned to write about this debate, but it is a story that needs to be told.

I recently attended a debate between two Democratic Candidates who are running for a seat in the US congress to represent the 3rd District, currently held by Justin Amash (R); which happens to the district in which I reside in Michigan.  

The debate was between Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas and was held at the WMU Kendall Center in downtown Battle Creek and was open to the public. Since I was not familiar with either of these people or their stances on various issues, I felt this was a perfect opportunity to educate myself and learn more about these potential candidates. I also felt this was a newsworthy event, and I planned on writing about it for this site. What I didn't anticipate was the events that unfolded at the debate. 

The debate began at 6pm on July 16, 2012 in the main lobby of the WMU Kendall Center. Upon entering I ran in to some familiar faces, city and county commissioners, other candidates running for various offices and even a former congressman. I found a seat and quietly took out my camera and snapped a few pictures. 

The debate began at 6pm sharp and I took out my recorder to record the audio of the debate. A young man sitting in the row behind me had a small personal camera and was video recording the event. Mind you there were at least 3 or 4  other large media cameras set up in various areas video recording the event. 

A few seconds in to the debate, a Steve Pestka campaign staffer approached the man behind me and told him that he could not record the event. The staffer then returned to his seat, to which I followed him to try to get more details about documenting the event. 

The staffer told me that still photography was allowed but no video and audio recording was allowed. I then politely showed him my press credentials and my audio recorder to which he told me I was not allowed to use. Since the debate was already in progress, I politely walked away and continued to audio record the event, because I never agreed not to and I felt it was my right and job as press to do so. 

I returned to my seat and a Pestka Campaign staffer sat right in front of the man with the camera-intentionally blocking his shot. I turned around and saw the man bending and leaning to try to capture the debate the best he could with his now obstructed view. The man then set his camera on a small tripod on a dividing wall that was next to him, so that his shot was not blocked. 

The Pestka campaign staffer in a stretching like motion leaned back and tried to grab the mans camera and knocked it over in the process. The man then recovered his camera and continued o hold it and film. 

Another Pestka campaign staffer came over and the 2 staffers began whispering between each other they both stood in front of the man to block his camera. Since I had a clear view in front of me, I leaned back and offered my hand to hold the camera for the man. I then was holding the camera for the man and continued filming for him. 

The two Pestka Campaign staffers then tracked down a employee of the building and told them about the man who was filming and that they didn't want him to film and were basically pleading that the building employee stop him from filming. I over heard the employee say something like, "It's a public building, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do." 

Since the building employee couldn't do anything, the 2 staffers then continued to alternate to block the man's shot. I then continued to alternate with the man, by holding his camera when his shot was compromised by the staffers. Let it be known, I did not and do not know the identity of the man filming the debate, but as a fellow citizen journalist, I felt it was my duty to help him in whatever way I could. 

At the end of the debate, the first Pestka Campaign staffer who originally approached the man with the camera and myself, came up and said "I hope you two know that you violated our agreement abut not filming." I replied, "I didn't agree to anything sir. Any agreement you may have had is between the 2 campaigns and the moderator. I have press credentials. I didn't interfere with you doing your job, I would appreciate it if you didn't interfere with me doing mine. 

He responded, 'The TV stations are here, you can get your information from them." I then stated,  "I suggest if you do not want people to film, then do not hold a public debate in a public building, open to the public.

I do not understand why people are so afraid of citizen journalists. Why is it okay for a large local news station to film, but yet they have an issue with citizens, (and possible constituents) filming? It appeared only the Steve Pestka campaign had an issue with citizens filming and that in a way makes sense, Trevor Thomas, Pestka's opponent, use to work for WOOD TV 8, so I am sure he fully understands and respects freedom of the press. 

The only conclusion that I can come to by the the type of behavior displayed by the Pestka campaign is that that they may have something to hide, that they are scared or for some reason, they do not want what Steve Pestka said at the debate out there for others to see and hear. Which I find odd and troubling. 
No matter what, I attended this event to become more informed and educated about both candidates, and I did get an education for sure. 

I learned that the Pestka Campaign disrespects citizen journalists. I learned that the Pestka Campaign obviously does not have a full understanding of freedom of the press. I learned that the Pestka campaign is willing to go as far at to knock down, grab and almost damage video equipment to stop or interfere with citizens filming them. I also learned that I will not be casing a vote for Steve Pestka on August 7th.
I learned all I needed to know at this debate and the Pestka campaign staffers behavior assisted in that education lesson. 


Be sure to vote Trevor Thomas on August 7th!

A note to the Pestka campaign: I highly suggest you educate yourself about the DMCA and copyright laws, as your  campaign staff told me I could get my information from the TV stations that were recording the debate. If you knew the law, you would know that your staff was instructing me to possibly violate DMCA and other copyright laws to do my job. 

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.  

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WMResident said...

I was sitting in the crowd where this happened. An Amash staffer was filming the debate, and the members of each campaign were eager to not see this young man leave with the footage he had recorded for the Republican opposition.

Your account of this story is overly dramatic, embellished, and false.

Autumn Smith said...

You must be a Pestka supporter, since I know that the Trevor Thomas campaign did not have issues with people recording the event at all. I have the audio recording of what happened. So my "embellished" story has evidence to back it up. Plus the alleged "Amash guy" has video also.
It shouldn't matter who records what. The only campaign that had a problem with people recording was the Pestka campaign. If the Pestka campaign was confident in their stances on issues, they shouldn't care who records what they say or if they give it to the opposition. If they do not want to be recorded, then they should hold a private debate at a private location open only to those they invite. This was a public debate, held on public property, open to the public. I have spoken to Trevor Thomas and he said everyone who wanted to record should have been allowed to and no one should have been prevented from recording the debate.

I don't work for the Amash campaign- and I showed my press credentials so why did the Pestka campaign try to interfere with me recording the event?
Selective/bias enforcement? Well sorry to break it to you, the 1st Amendment doesn't work that way. I also don't appreciate the Pestka Campaign suggesting I violate DMCA law to gather material for my reporting.
AutumnROJS News & Radio

Spartan101 said...

Autumn - its not only foolish but unprofessional that you would admit that you violated the first rule of journalism. Not only did you involve yourself in the story, but without your involvement there would be no story.

Advice: when defending the role of the press, respect the principles that guide decent journalism.

WMResident said...

you have opted for embellishment again, offering only the threat of evidence.
any evidence that you have would be the only credibility to this chirping. but since it doesnt exist you are alleging it does.

Autumn Smith-ROJS Radio Co-Host said...

I am not a professional journalist nor do I claim to be. I am a Blogger and independent radio host.

By the Pestka campaign causing a scene by interfering with citizens right to record the event, and with their statements directed at me, they created the story and I by doing my job, inadvertently became part of the story.

Reporters when on the scene covering events sometimes do get caught up in the mix of things. Think about Anderson Cooper when he was reporting live from Egypt and he got toughest up by some rebels, he reported on that. Also think about the 1968 DNC when Dan Rather was punched by a Georgia Delegate, he reported on that also. I am not by any means putting myself in the league of Cooper or Rather, but to say that journalists do not report or become involved in the story is absolutely false.

As for the evidence, I do not have access to the visor that was being shot by the alleged 'Amash guy' but my audio has been uploaded and will be played in a upcoming episode of ROJS Radio.

ROJS News said...

This is a OPINION BASED PIECE...see Op/Ed above. With that, let's define the definition of OP/ED for a response this

"A newspaper page devoted to signed articles by commentators, essayists, humorists, etc., of varying viewpoints."

See review the word VIEWPOINTS. Let's define what this means according to

1. "A place affording a view of something; position of observation."
2. "An attitude of mind, or the circumstances of an individual that conduce to such an attitude"

With such, Autumn defined her experience at this event in a OP/ED, detailing her viewpoint on this debate. The story has written, will stand!

Thank you for your concern on how ROJS News operates but, we know the difference between article based on facts, and a OP/ED based on opinions along with detailing incidents surrounding those opinions.

Monica RW
Owner/Webmaster/Executive Producer

Spartan101 said...

so this incident is a matter of your opinion or of your imagination?

Webmaster said...

Can you read? Again this is a OP/ED and I own this blog. So thus, Autumn's account of the debate will stand. Feel free to sumbit a guest post if you have a different account of this debate and we'll review it for posting.

Monica RW

ROJS News said...

Actually, no this is my blog. With such, as if you could read above, Autumn wrote an Op/Ed piece. If you have another opinion, feel free to submit it for review, in a guest post above. Otherwise, again, the piece remains and WILL REMAIN, as written.

Have a lovely Monday!
Monica RWOwner/Webmaster/Executive ProducerROJS News/ROJS Radio LIVE

Autumn Smith-ROJS Radio Co-Host said...

I "suck" so bad at writing that I just got offered a position as a regular writer/citizen journalist reporter, by NY Times best selling author and activist Naomi Wolf, writing for her website.

How does that saying go-Haters make me famous....

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