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Miami Police Department to embed journalists for trade talk protests

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Miami Police Department to embed journalists for trade talk protests

  • Reporters will have the opportunity to work alongside the Miami Police Department next week in covering protest demonstrations of the Free Trade of America conference.

Nov. 12, 2003 — The Miami Police Department will allow reporters to be embedded among police units during an upcoming world trade conference, which is expected to attract approximately 50,000 protestors to the city throughout the week.

Miami Police Chief John Timoney said the initiative — similar to the Pentagon’s embed program during the war in Iraq — would allow journalists to experience the potential chaos from the Police Department’s vantage point. Such access, Timoney said in an article on editorandpublisher.com, would likely provide reporters with “a clearer picture and a better story.”

More than 500 people were arrested during violent protests outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in 1999. Police there were widely criticized for using excessive force against rioting protesters.

The Free Trade Area of America’s week-long conference is scheduled to begin in Miami Nov. 17. Foreign trade ministers from 34 nations will discuss the elimination of trade barriers in the Western Hemisphere, minus Cuba.

Susannah Nesmith, a reporter for The Miami Herald, said the embed program “is better than the way we have traditionally covered protests out on the street” because “it gives us access to another source of information.”

The Herald has yet to agree to embed its reporters, Nesmith said, as the Police Department is still drafting rules and restrictions governing what journalists can write about. If the rules infringe heavily upon reporters’ ability to cover the protests, the Herald will not participate, she said.

Restrictions aside, some media observers say the embed program will give police more control over the content and objectivity of reporters’ coverage. Unlike the war in Iraq, there are other ways to cover this story.

“Journalists are supposed to be independent gatherers of information,” Robert Jensen, associated professor of journalism law and ethics at the University of Texas at Austin, told editorandpublisher.com.

Embedding, he added, “is going to put journalists in the police view of the world.”

On the contrary, said Nesmith. The embed program will actually allow reporters to be more objective.

“Yes, we will have reporters embedded with police, which will allow us to get information that we can’t get any other way,” Nesmith said. “But we will also have plenty of reporters who are not embedded out on the street.”

VR


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