Press Photographers Group Ups the Ante on Advocacy

The response by the National Press Photographers Association to the arrest of a Detroit Free Press journalist highlights how the organization has adjusted its advocacy efforts in an increasingly mobile world.

In a letter to Detroit Police Chief James Craig last week, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) said police violated a journalist’s First Amendment rights when they arrested her after she tried to recover her iPhone from an officer who told her to stop recording video on a public street and then took the phone.

“I deal with incidents of photographers being interfered with and arrested around the country almost on a daily basis for doing nothing more than taking pictures and recording video,” said Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA. “Unfortunately, that’s really a sign of our times, and something that I have had to deal with for a few years now.”

The proliferation of mobile technology means that everyone with a smartphone in their pocket—roughly 61 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers according to Nielsen—can play the role of a journalist, whether they are one or not.

To address the growing number of arrests, NPPA’s board tasked Osterreicher—a 40-year photojournalist, and current uniformed reserve-sheriff’s deputy and attorney—with finding ways to improve the situation.

“Last year, prior to the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte and the NATO Summit in Chicago, I started doing trainings with the police in those cities,” Osterreicher said. “I’ve been pleased with the way things have been going—for the first time since 2000, there were no arrests during either convention—and have since done training with groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Georgia Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriff’s Association.”

Collaborating with other media and journalism groups has helped NPPA get its message out as well.

“Networking, especially for a small organization like ours, is very important,” said Osterreicher. “Where as in the past we were trying to compete with those associations for members, we now find ourselves collaborating with them. NPPA has garnered a whole lot more respect from the journalism community, and they look to us to be a leader in the visual-journalism field.”

In order to continue to build that reputation in the field and with members, everyone at NPPA must be knowledgeable about the issues affecting members and in tune with one another, Osterreicher said.

“We all work together, be it through social media or our advocacy blog, to see what the important topics are, stay on top of them, and get our message out there quickly,” he said. “But I can’t stress how important it is to have everybody on the same page and working together, because we’re really trying to maximize the amount of resources that we have and get as much of the message out there as we can to be as effective as possible for our membership.”

A screenshot from the video shot by Detroit Free Press journalist Mandi Wright, shortly before her arrest. (Detroit Free Press screenshot)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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