Journalists Bloodied, Beaten, Bruised in Baltimore Riots

The clash between freedom of speech and public safety led to the city of Baltimore looking more like a war zone. Violent rioters took to the streets, burning down buildings, looting, injuring law enforcement officials, and charring vehicles.

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Photo Courtesy: CNN

This violent activity stems from the arrest of Freddie Gray, who died of a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.

Going down as one of Baltimore’s darkest day’s, at least 235 people were arrested Monday and Tuesday in Baltimore, according to the city’s Police Department. That number includes 34 juveniles, with most of the adult arrests ranging from the ages of 18 and 30.

15 police officers were injured, while two remain in the hospital. Several journalists also found themselves in the crossfire between police and protestors.

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Photo Courtesy: CNN

As of Monday night, nine journalists were injured while reporting from the scene.

According to a Twitter post, a CCTV staffer was reportedly attacked:

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Photojournalist William Seiders posted images of the bullet dents in his live truck.
Luckily, he said he and reporter Christina Butler were unhurt.

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Meanwhile, a Baltimore Sun photo editor was attacked while taking photos.

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

And if that wasn’t enough, Casey Harper, a reporter with the Daily Caller News Foundation, said he was hit in the head with a liquor bottle from a “mob of attackers.”

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

With non-stop live coverage on several different media outlets, many local stations in the Baltimore area have found useful ways to get the word out.

The Baltimore Sun is giving free, easy access to all of its coverage. They have also made an interactive map to put into perspective where the violence is occurring. They have also created a section dedicated entirely to photos of protest signs.

WMAR has set up a live blog, along with streaming live video.

WBAL also has a live Twitter feed, providing the latest updates on the situation.

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Journalist Jailed Over State Secrets Leak

Journalists in China are fighting for their freedoms after the government’s crackdown on reports claiming to verify top governmental secrets.

A 71 year old Chinese journalist named Ga Yu is now looking at seven years in prison after being found guilty of “revealing state secrets.”

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Photo Courtesy: Chinese journalist Gao Yu, pictured at a Hong Kong press conference in 2007. (AFP/Mike Clarke)

She is accused of publishing a document detailing the Communist Party’s plans to put pressure on human rights, but has denied the allegations brought against her.

According to a CBS News article, journalist Zhang Jialong, said reporters in China can obtain information the government does not want published and put it online for people to see.

The 26-year old journalist was fired from his job at a financial news website for “leaking secrets and sensitive information.

“You’re constantly in fear of having your work removed or getting punished,” Zhang said. “In the long run, you start to censor yourself.”

Instead, Zhang decided to expose Chinese censors by publishing gag orders issued to journalists.

“Please exhaust all efforts deleting… New York Times’ smearing articles about (former Premier) Wen Jiabao” and his family’s assets, one order read.

Another order stated: “Bloomberg published a quite despicable article attacking (then) Vice President Xi (Jinping). All websites are forbidden to post this article.

You can only say what the government wants you to say,” Zhang told CBS News.

Foreign journalists are not given censorship orders, but the Chinese government has a way of getting around that. Officials threaten to withhold visas as a way to control overseas press.

Zhang was part of a group of journalists to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry last year in Beijing. Behind closed doors, Zhang complained about censorship. Soon after, he lost his job and is still unemployed.

“It’s wrong for journalists to cover up (what) they know,” he said. “I cannot help the government cover people’s eyes and ears.”

Last year, 44  journalists were sitting in Chinese prisons. Gao Yu’s sentencing now serves as a cautious reminder to other journalists about the intensifying crackdown on press freedoms.

In response to Gao Yu’s verdict, Reporter Without Borders has published the classified Chinese Communist Party documents as a form of protest against the government’s attempt to control the media. You can view those documents by clicking here.

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SC Shooting: The Video That Changed the Charge

33-year-old police officer Michael T. Slager is now facing murder charges after seen firing eight times at a 50-year-old African-American man, Walter L. Scott, who was running away from the officer. And all of this was captured on video by an innocent bystander using a smartphone.

The incident occurred on Saturday in North Charleston, South Carolina, specifically after a traffic stop related to a broken taillight on Scott’s Mercedes-Benz sedan.


Video Courtesy: CBS News

In this video posted by the New York Times, Scott is briefly seen wrestling an object out of Slager’s hand onto the grass before running away from the officer. The object in question was initially reported to be a taser. As Scott flees, Slager pulls out his firearm and quickly fires seven times towards Scott’s back, then slightly delays before firing an eighth shot that appears to make Scott fall down. According to Scott’s family, four of the eight bullets struck Scott in the back and a fifth bullet hit Scott’s ear.

The question now is-what if someone would not have caught this unfold on video? What if they wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time? How would today’s circumstances change?

The Scott family believes justice would have never been served for their father.

“It would have never come to light. They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others,” Walter Scott Sr. told NBC’s Today show today, speaking of the video’s release.

According to a PBS article,  the proliferation of smart phones and social media has made citizen monitoring of police activity easy: people carry high-quality photo and video technology in their pockets, and can share their records almost instantaneously.

Mobile phones have advanced to where specific apps are now dedicated to recording interactions with the police.  Different ACLU state offices have apps that record video and immediately back them up to a server, so records are not lost if a phone is lost or destroyed.

The existence of this kind of record shifts the conversation, said Lumumba Bandele, Senior Community Organizer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a co-founder of a Brooklyn-based grassroots cop watch program.

“Before the knowledge of this tape [of Walter Scott], the police account was totally different. Now that it’s present, we can see what would have been presented and likely accepted as the narrative.”

Mary Angela Bock, an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism who researches photojournalism practice and ethics, said citizens need to develop this practice not just in times of major fallouts, but in everyday events.

“All citizens should be in the habit of documenting the public work of police in public places,” she said, “It shouldn’t be only in times of crisis, and not just people in groups that are marginalized in society. Everyone needs to make it a respectful habit.”

So what should this kind of civilian monitoring look like? Simple, said Bock: “It would look like journalism.”

Documenting public officials at work, she said, is what journalists do every day.

“Now that everybody can be a journalist, everybody needs to learn the ethics and think like one,” Bock said.


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Nigerian’s Turn to Social Media for Election Coverage

Nigeria just welcomed its first president from the ranks of an opposition group and a small group of citizen journalists can now pat themselves on the back for their roles in reporting coverage of the election all through the use of their smartphones.

In November, a group of journalists called ‘On Our Radar‘ traveled to the Niger Delta to teach and train 36 aspiring citizen journalists some tricks and tips to the trade. They focused on how mobile phones can be used in the reporting process, and used a combination of SMS and WhatsApp to submit photos, videos, and text and audio stories.

In an article with All Africa, Paul Myles, On Our Radar’s UK-based editorial manager, shared his thoughts on collaborating with technology.

“SMS and a mobile phone is almost the lowest common denominator for access for our reporters, even in regions without electricity,” said Myles.

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Photo Courtesy: On Our Radar

Stories that journalists send go straight to Radar’s “central hub”, a custom-built web app that the Radar editorial team can access securely from anywhere in the world, before Myles and his colleagues connect the reporters and their stories with larger news organizations.

“It’s the same backend hub as we were using before the Ebola coverage,” he said, referring to last summer’s outbreak when citizen journalists in Sierra Leone, trained by Radar for the 2012 election, shared stories from areas the mainstream media could not – or would not – reach.

Local media organizations are also becoming more involved with citizen journalists and their work. Several stations have aired footage submitted through WhatsApp and are beginning to form partnerships with the citizen journalists and their projects.

Radar’s mission is to give a voice to those who often go unheard and to provide a powerful outlet they can turn to. By using simple forms of technology, those in the most isolated areas of the world are still able to bring their thoughts and views to the table.

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What Qualities Are Needed to be a Citizen Journalist?

Brown Moses and the founder of Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, recently revealed what qualities they look for in citizen journalists.

In an interview with Mashable‘s Executive Editor Jim Roberts at the +SocialGood UK conference in London, Higgins said that he looks for those who think in “obsessive detail but also aren’t crazy.”

Higgins site is dedicated to investigative citizen journalism across the globe. He has had a successful career, breaking several stories and finding news ways to visually enhance the storytelling process through photos, videos, and social media accounts.

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Higgins pinpointed the location of a Buk missile launcher in Ukraine after the MH17 crash, providing evidence that pro-Russia rebels had access to military equpitment, confirmed that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had utilized chemical weapons and exposed Syrian arms trafficking. The amazing thing is that he did all of this from a home in the UK.

In the interview, Higgins was asked if he had any advice for prospective journalists, his answer was simple.

“Just do it,” he said. “Start a WordPress blog. Pick a video and think ‘how can I verify this?'”

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Photo Courtesy: Twitter

And that may be the best way to get your foot in the door, by starting small. That’s one of the greatest qualities about citizen journalism, anyone has the power and ability to join in and start a conversation.

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The Showdown Between Meerkat vs. Periscope

A few days ago, I ventured into writing about all of the features that the live streaming app, Meerkat, offers. But now there is another service that is rivaling against Meerkat; it’s called Periscope.

Periscope was acquired by Twitter in January and it lets users to live broadcast through their mobile devices by downloading the app and connecting through Twitter. While Meerkat and Periscope both have many similarities, the automatic linking with Twitter followers gives Periscope a huge advantage.

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Photo Courtesy: Periscope

Periscope users can also choose to share a stream publicly or privately to a select group of users, whereas Meerkat streams are public-only and live-only. The app encourages users to send hearts if they like what they are seeing, similar to Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Periscope also provides better options for discovering new streams.

Live-streaming is nothing new, but new technology combined with social media is encouraging more people to join in. Both of these apps could be used for personal terms, such as sharing family vacations, weddings, or birthdays.

Companies could also take use of these apps to promote advertising and connect their brand with the audience.

And when it comes to breaking news, this might be the most valuable tool for citizen journalists. For example,  Ben Popper is a writer for The Verge, and he said that he got a notification from Periscope that a user was live-streaming from the scene of the massive fire that erupted in New York City’s East Village on Thursday. He was able to see and receive this information well before any news crews arrived.

So while both of these apps have some speed bumps to overcome, the main ideas of both could be the start to the next big thing.

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Live Streaming App Meerkat Causing a Stir on Social Media

There’s a new app in town that has caused quite the buzz on social media. It’s similar to Snapchat or Vine and it lets users stream live video instantly from their smartphones. It’s called Meerkat and it has already gained a steady following of 300,000 active users, including celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon and Snoop Dogg.

The app works along with Twitter, lettings users to broadcast whatever they want, live, to their followers. Anyone watching can follow along and can comment on the videos posted. What’s even better is that it is super simple to use. There are two options on the app: start a stream or schedule one for later.

Once you start a stream and broadcast, all of your followers are alerted by a tweet.

The company has already started strong with a large audience, but the question that remains is how long will this sensation last?

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Photo Courtesy: Meerkat

At a recent South By South West festival in Texas, Meerkat apparently became the most-talked-about app of the conference. In fact, it’s called “Meerkating” when you start a new stream.

This app would definitely be valuable to citizen journalists, but with so many other similar options available, it will be interesting to see if Meerkat can set itself apart and highlight a unique feature that it offers.

The app may be new, but its already been caught up in some controversy. Meerkat was apparently hacked after hijackers got a hold of the live streams and replaced them with any kind of recorded video that they wanted. The flaw apparently had something to do with Meerkat’s code.

Each broadcast stream has a unique ID. But once it’s found, it can be substituted for another, even though the users’ credentials remain secure.

Meerkat says it has fixed this particular flaw and that this will no longer be an issue. But with a service so new, this calls into question whether there will be more security flaws in the future.

With this type of technology being so new, I would try it out, but approach it with caution. So what do you guys think? Would you use Meerkat as a reliable social networking app? Or is this just a new service that is trying to create an old idea? Share your thoughts!

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