Washington Post and Huffington Post reporters arrested covering Ferguson unrest, later released
National media focused on events in St. Louis suburb following shooting of unarmed youth and nights of unrest, while much of the state’s newspapers choose to downplay story on their front pages
The media became the story last night when police in Ferguson, Missouri arrested two reporters who were covering the protests and unrest in the St. Louis area town following the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed at the time, and may or may not have been in an altercation with the police officer who shot him. The death has led to nights of protests, rioting, and a massive police reaction. Last night that reaction included arresting journalists doing their jobs.
This morning both websites for the two media outlets led with the arrest of their reporters, with the AOL-own Huffington Post far more tabloid in its approach.
The two journalists, Ryan J. Reilly of the HuffPost and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post told their stories in front page articles. Lowery said the two reporters were in a local McDonalds, there to recharge his phone and access WiFi. Officers entered the fast food restaurant and were asked for identification. But once Lowery began video recording the officers they were arrested.
“They essentially acted as a military force. It was incredible,” Reilly said in his appearance on MSNBC. “The worst part was he slammed my head against the glass purposefully on the way out of McDonald’s and then sarcastically apologized for it.”
The unrest in Ferguson is front page news in St. Louis, but amazingly, few other Missouri newspapers are giving the news the same prominence on their front pages. The St. Joseph News-Press, for instance, featured the training camp of the Kansas City Chiefs football team (St. Joseph is on the other side of the state, a suburb of Kansas City), while papers in Springfield, Joplin and other towns also led with other news.
In addition to The Washington Post and Huffington Post, the New York Times has two reporters in the area and led with the story on its website this morning. Reporters continue frustrated that the police will not release the name of the officer involved in the shooting so as to report on whether there have been any previous incidents or other factors that may have come into play.
One theme of the coverage that is dominating the news stories, however, is the militarization of the local police. The other is the reluctance of the police to give out details of the incident or the officer involved, while simultaneously wishing to put out its own side of the incident. Details, such as how many times Brown was shot, have not emerged, for instance – while at the same time the police, who say they will conduct a thorough investigation, have begun saying that, thought unarmed, Brown was in a fight with the officer who shot him, and that the officer sustained injuries. The one-sided nature of information being released not helped to ease tensions in the community – a community which is 63 percent black, but which has only three black police officers on its force.