St. Louis SPJ condemns arrest of journalist Mike Faulk

The St. Louis Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemns the arrest of reporter Mike Faulk by St. Louis police during the weekend’s protests and demonstrations.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that one of their own, reporter Mike Faulk, was caught in a controversial police tactic known as “kettling” on Sunday night. Faulk was on duty covering the protests and the ensuing police action when police apparently blocked all four sides of the intersection.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Faulk and many others were told “move back,” but literally had nowhere to go. Faulk’s own Twitter feed states that no one knew how they were to disperse. “We are closed in on all four sides now, I have no idea where people are supposed to go,” Faulk posted. “People moving toward bike cops, looks like best option.”

Then there was silence, for more than 13 hours.

Faulk reports he was knocked to the ground and pinned by a police officer, with a boot literally on his head. Pinned to the ground, motionless, he was then pepper-sprayed in the face. He was arrested, held overnight in jail, and has since been charged with “failure to disperse.”

The Post-Dispatch has a photograph of Faulk in the process of being arrested. His press credential is clearly visible. Police officers surround him, and yet he was not released. According to Faulk, he was kept in jail for six hours after his editor posted bail, enough time for his family to email Mayor Lyda Krewson calling for his release.

This is not the first time this problem has arisen in our community. In 2014, we saw multiple journalists threatened and illegally ordered to stop reporting and recording; journalists with firearms aimed at them while doing their jobs in approved areas. In the case of two journalists literally arrested while writing their stories in a McDonald’s, the embarrassment of the charges filed against them and eventually dismissed cast yet another shadow on the reputation of St. Louis. Another journalist arrested during Ferguson filed a civil rights suit with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, and won a settlement in 2015.

The ACLU has also spoken up about the mass arrests and police tactics used in the Stockley protests, citing excessive force and unconstitutional arrests.

There can be no question that Mike Faulk was there in his capacity as a journalist. There can be no question that the police officers containing the situation knew that Faulk was a reporter and that he was no threat to them. He should have been safe by approaching police officers in his efforts to leave the scene as ordered. After all, they were there to protect him, were they not?

Journalism is the only profession protected by name in the Constitution. The First Amendment is not a whimsical academic concept to be dismissed when it becomes inconvenient – or embarrassing to the police. The chilling effect of assaulting, arresting, jailing and charging a journalist in the course of his duties cannot be overstated.

Journalists in high-incident situations are already placing themselves in harm’s way to perform the public service of informing the community. They are on the ground surrounded by some who may be hostile toward them, as we also have seen over the last few days. Since his release, Faulk reportedly has been harassed and threatened online.

Journalists already have much to fear in this brave new world. They should not have to fear the police as well.

The St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists calls for the immediate dismissal of charges against Mike Faulk, and for an investigation into the events of this weekend to determine whether officers violated the Constitutional rights of Faulk or any other citizens. Mayor Krewson has promised that any police misconduct would be investigated, and we hope she remains true to her word. A formal, transparent investigation will serve as a reminder to the officers on duty of their responsibilities to the Constitution of the United States as guardians of the public’s safety.

That means journalists, too.

 

Contact: Elizabeth Donald, president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

 

Note: This post has been edited for clarity. -ekd
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Coming this Saturday: SPJ Student Boot Camp!

Calling student journalists! Come learn from the pros at the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists’ Student Boot Camp! Sessions include investigative reporting, the skills you need to land a job, online journalism, making it as a freelancer, research and the art of interviewing, real-world journalism ethics… and even a mock press conference, where you’ll interview an actual spokesman, write a story and compete for prizes! The sessions are taught by actual working journalists with decades of experience doing the job you’re training for – come learn from them!

The all-day session will take place Saturday, Sept. 23 beginning at 8 a.m. at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, co-hosted by the SIUE Mass Communications department and The Alestle.

Who can attend the SPJ Boot Camp?
* High school students considering a career in journalism.
* College students studying journalism or mass media subjects.
* Newsroom interns.
* Recent graduates.

Realistic newsroom experience

Boot camp participants will get a real life flavor of the stresses and demands of a newsroom. They will attend a press briefing, and, under a tight deadline, research, write and submit a completed story.

Entries will be judged by a panel of professional journalists. Authors of the top three stories win an Amazon gift card.

How much does it cost?

The Boot Camp is FREE. However, there is a $10 pre-registration fee. Those who pre-register and attend the boot camp will have the option of having the $10 returned or donating it to the St. Louis SPJ Scholarship Fund. Running late? You can email your registration form to Tammy Merrett (see below) and pay your fee online here! (Yes, it can still be refunded to you.)

Included: a continental breakfast and pizza lunch! 

For more information, contact Tammy Merrett at tmerrettmurry@gmail.com or Elizabeth Donald at stlouisspj@gmail.com. Sign up now!

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Coming to you (almost) from sunny California!

Time for EIJ!

By the time you receive this, your loyal chapter president/delegate/zookeeper will be high in the air flying to California to represent the St. Louis Pro chapter at Excellence in Journalism, taking place in sunny Los Angeles. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

This year’s convention is a cooperation between SPJ, RTDNA, NAHJ and NAJA, which is quite an alphabet soup. This year looks to be a terrific lineup of panels, with many serious and important issues for us all to discuss.

If you are an official card-carrying member of SPJ (really? nobody actually carries the cards), you soon will receive your ballot to vote in the SPJ officer election. PLEASE VOTE. Turnout has sometimes been as low as 8 percent. That’s just embarrassing for people who spend as much time as we do talking about elections. It’s all online and takes approximately five minutes.

Here is the list of everyone who is running for an office, including a contested race for President-Elect, who will take over a year from now.

If you’ve been watching the Facebook page, you know that SPJ is considering a major change in the way it operates the national organization. The short version… there is no short version. The less-long version is that the national board would go from 23 members to nine, and the regional directors would be renamed “regional coordinators” and would not be part of the board. This probably oversimplifies the whole thing by a great amount, so if you’d like to be better informed, here is the detailed roundup of why they want to do this and how they went through this process of reimagining SPJ’s governance.

As your chapter delegate, I will be asked to vote on this. And I would like to hear from you. There will be many debates and discussions (I hear at least one alternative proposal is already circulating), and I am open to all arguments. So if you have strong feelings about this issue, please let me know!

“But wait, Madam President! Didn’t you just say I was going to have to vote myself?” I hear you cry. Yes, you as members will vote on officers and representatives. The delegates vote on bylaws changes and resolutions. Confused yet?

WARNING!! Your ballot may have an error. While St. Louis Pro is in Missouri and therefore in Region 7, Illinois is in Region 5. SPJ considers those of us who live or work in the metro-east grandfathered in to Region 7, because it’s more practical for us to be involved with St. Louis than Chicago. However, if you use an Illinois address (home or work) as your preferred address for your SPJ membership, you may see a Region 5 ballot instead.

So please check your ballot, and if you need to get your ballot switched to a Region 7 ballot, please email me at edonald@bnd.com and I will get it fixed.

If you have any other questions or problems with voting, they have set up an election hotline at 317-920-4784, or you can email Tara Puckey at elections@spj.org.

I will be Tweeting as regularly as I can remember at @BNDedonald, and emailing as we know more about the election and proposals. I will also attempt to update our website and Facebook, but in between all that I need to go to some panels and meetings and occasionally sleep, so please bear with me. I will do my best to keep you all informed.

As always, it is my privilege and honor to represent you at EIJ, both as your delegate and as your president. I am proud of all the work that you do, and of the journalism practiced in our city. I look forward to sharing our stories with our compatriots in Los Angeles, and hope for a useful and enlightening convention. And I’ll try not to have too much fun.

Onward!
Elizabeth Donald
President and Delegate

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Excellence in Journalism delegation

We are happy to report that St. Louis Pro’s charter is approved for another year, and we will be represented at the Excellence in Journalism convention.

This year’s EIJ conference will take place in Anaheim, Calif. in partnership with RTDNA, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association. Earlybird registration is now open through July 11; click here for more details.

As in previous years, St. Louis Pro’s delegate will be chapter president Elizabeth Donald. But keep in mind that since 2011, the delegates only vote on resolutions; officer elections go to the entire membership! So make sure your membership is up to date, and remember to read and electronically vote Sept. 7-9.

As delegate, Elizabeth will keep you apprised of resolutions and issues to be discussed via this page, the St. Louis Pro Facebook and her Twitter account at @BNDedonald. If you have concerns or questions, please feel free to contact her at edonald@bnd.com.

And do consider attending EIJ! Networking opportunities, informative panel sessions, training on new skills… EIJ is a terrific way to jump-start or reinvigorate your professional goals. (And it’s a lot of fun, too.)

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