No faces

As a person who follows the Portland protests fairly closely, I'm grateful for the journalists who are out there night after night, showing us what's going on. The mainstream media doesn't have enough resources (or interest) to have a constant presence at the demonstrations, which leaves it to public radio and freelancer types like Sergio Olmos, Justin Yau, Laura Jedeed, and others. The protest descriptions you see on this blog would not exist without their Twitter accounts.

One interesting aspect of what they produce is that it rarely if ever shows the face of a demonstrator. The fact is that the protesters don't want their faces shown, and they let people holding cameras and phones know that, in no uncertain terms. It's not really a request so much as a demand. Failure to comply would be awkward at best.

If you're out there in public protesting, why would you not want your face to be revealed? I guess it's because showing your face makes it easier for the authorities to prosecute you for crimes, and it makes it easier for people who don't agree with you to harass you, on line or otherwise.

And so on the internet, the "press" types don't ordinarily show protesters' faces, even though they compile footage that does. Of course, they do show every square inch of the police.

This act of self-censorship detracts a bit from their position as independent journalists. If they're not showing us the protesters' faces, what else aren't they showing us? But it seems as though they have no choice, as a practical matter.

This reality is in the news this week because Dave Killen, a mainstream newspaper photographer who doesn't feel bound by the protesters' rules, was present the other night when the angry mob showed up at City Commissioner Dan Ryan's house at 11:30 for a chat. Ryan joined the protesters in asking that no photo, video, or audio record be made of their hour-long conversation out in Ryan's front yard.

Toward the end of the meeting, Ryan's partner, who was also present, reportedly pointed out Killen and sicced the crowd on him. The photographer complained about it on the website of his employer, The Oregonian, here, but the story is behind the O's pitiful new paywall, so you can't see it unless (unlike me) you pay.

Anyway, you don't need to read the story to think about the questions it raises. Should a journalist honor protesters' requests not to show what they are doing on a public street? Should elected officials who meet with constituents in public demand that no record be made? Something in all that doesn't sound quite right.


  1. "Well they tore down a statue in Portland
    Last night
    And they lit up some building lobbies too
    Down by the waterfront they're gettin' ready for a fight gonna see what
    them Proud Boys can do
    Now there's trouble busin' in from outta state
    And the Mayor? Well, he's just sort of lost
    Gonna be a rumble out on the promenade
    And the riot cops love what the overtime cost
    Everything dies baby that's a fact
    But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
    Put your flak jacket on because this won't be pretty
    And meet me tonight in what's left of Rose City."


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