MU communications professor calls for 'muscle' to stop student r - KCTV5

MU communications professor calls for 'muscle' to stop student reporter covering protest

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The New York Times identifies that woman as assistant professor of mass media Melissa Click. According to her biography on the university's website, she specializes in "audience studies, theories of gender and sexuality and media literacy" The New York Times identifies that woman as assistant professor of mass media Melissa Click. According to her biography on the university's website, she specializes in "audience studies, theories of gender and sexuality and media literacy"
Click locked her Twitter account Monday afternoon, not allowing anyone to view her tweets. However, just the day before, Click posted on her Facebook page asking for national media coverage of the Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike. Click locked her Twitter account Monday afternoon, not allowing anyone to view her tweets. However, just the day before, Click posted on her Facebook page asking for national media coverage of the Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike.
COLUMBIA, MO (KCTV) -

Things got a bit heated Monday between a University of Missouri journalism student and a group of protesters, which included a communications professor, who tried to block his access in a public section of campus.

The assistant professor's role with the university's school of journalism is now under review, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the dean of the school of journalism. Click here to read the entire statement.

The communications department is conducting its own investigation of assistant professor Melissa Click, according to a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon.

Click reportedly could be heard sobbing in her office on Tuesday. She issued an apology and said she regrets her actions. She added that she had learned humility and humanity.

The video showing a photographer's clash has ignited a the debate about freedom of the press. It all took place in the area many are calling "tent city." It was there that the protesters posted signs that read, "no media allowed."

Student photographer Tim Tai tried to enter the area to document the protests. Tai was on a freelancing assignment for ESPN.

Other students, including Janna Basler, the university’s assistant director of Greek life, formed a barrier with their bodies to keep Tai out. In the video, some are even seen pushing him out of the way. The video had been viewed 534,000 times on YouTube as of Tuesday morning.

Mizzou is a public university, so anyone can be photographed anywhere they are out in public without permission. 

Basler, who has also not commented on the video, is seen telling Tai to "back off." She also appears to shove Tai, and puts her hand in front of his face at the 3:48 point in the video.

Tai then asks for her name, and she says, "I am Concerned Student 1950."

When Tai tells the other students and Basler he has a job to do, Basler responds, "They have a life to live, they have an education to get and a life to live."

Tai tried to explain his First Amendment rights to the protesters, as a fellow student recorded the entire confrontation on video.

"You can’t be here," yelled one protester in the video.

"Yes I can! Yes I can!" Tai yelled back. "This is the First Amendment that protects your right to stand here and mine!"

The entire video is about six minutes long. In it, students and some faculty members can been seen pushing Tai back. Some even trying to block his camera with their hands.

Toward the end of the video, Mark Schierbecker, the student recording the video, approaches a woman to ask her a question. University faculty members identify that woman as 44-year-old assistant professor of mass media Melissa Click

According to her biography on the university's website, she specializes in "audience studies, theories of gender and sexuality and media literacy."

The School of Journalism and communications department are separate at the university.

However, Click held a courtesy appointment with the journalism school. The communications department is in the College of Arts and Science.

"Journalism School faculty members are taking immediate action to review that appointment," according to a statement from David Kurpius, the journalism school's dean.

Tuesday night, Click resigned her courtesy appointment with the J-school.

In a press release sent out, the University of Missouri's Department of Communications supports the First Amendment as a right and praises student journalists for doing their job and reporting the story. The department cannot comment on personnel matters based on the policies of the University's Collected Rules and Regulations.

When Tai mentions he is a journalist, Click tries to take his camera away and asks other students to help get him out.

"You need to get out!" yells Click in the video.

"I actually don't," the student replies.

That’s when Click turns to the large group of protesters and yells, "Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here!"

Click locked her Twitter account Monday afternoon, not allowing anyone to view her tweets. However, just the day before, Click posted on her Facebook page asking for national media coverage of the Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike.

"Hey folks, students fighting racism on the MU campus want to get their message into the national media," Click wrote on her Facebook page. "Who among my friends knows someone who would want a scoop into this incredible topic? This story involves the failure of administrators, a student on day 6 of a hunger strike, and creative, fearless students. If you can help, please let me know!"

As for Tai, he later tweeted, saying some of the people in the video are getting death threats.

In his statement, Kurpius praised Tai's handling of "physical and verbal intimidation."

"The news media have First Amendment rights to cover public events," the dean wrote. "Tai handled himself professionally and with poise."

Tuesday afternoon, Click said she regrets the language she used and the actions she took. She said she regrets that her actions and behavior have "shifted attention away from the students' campaign for justice."

She said she telephoned Tai to apologize and he accepted her apology.

Mark Dolan, the president of the National Press Photographers Association, an organization representing, and advocating for, visual journalists said Tuesday that the NPPA commends the calm and professional manner with which Tai dealt with the incident.

"Kudos to the University of Missouri Journalism faculty for the job they did training Tai, and Mark Schierbecker, the student who captured the video of the incident," he said in a written statement.

Dolan goes on to say, "It’s sad that the same could not be said of the faculty member, Melissa Click, listed as an assistant professor of Mass Media in the communications school, who not only denied Tai and others of their rights, she went so far as to call for 'some muscle' to forcibly deny him his legal right to cover this event happening on public property."

Dolan feels one can only hope that teaching Mizzou students about First Amendment rights is not one of Click's responsibilities.

"News outlets have reported that the university's board of curators has announced new initiatives to help address racial tensions on the campus and to help educate students, faculty and staff on racial issues - that’s an important step for the University of Missouri community - this incident shows that the board of curators would do well to develop initiatives that would also educate their community on the First Amendment. And clearly, that educational process should start with some of their faculty members."

Mizzou has the oldest journalism school in the country, and on its website, the J-School says it teaches inclusivity and a welcome environment for everyone.

Statement from NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher:

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is very disturbed by the events captured on video during yesterday’s demonstration at the University of Missouri. Covering protests is difficult enough, even under the best of circumstances. To have a visual journalism student, Tim Tai (who is an NPPA member), threatened, harassed and interfered with while covering a story of national concern in a public place was inappropriate and uncalled for. To have some of those involved in that interference be identified as school faculty who should know better is even more disconcerting. The students were exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceably assemble for a redress of their grievances against the school president. Mr. Tai was also carrying out his free speech/free press rights as a citizen and journalist.

Aside from those constitutional rights, which only come into play if the government abridges them (the faculty could be seen as state actors and therefore they might) is the right to privacy. It should be understood that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. Mr. Tai did not need permission to take anyone’s photo. It is one thing to politely ask someone not to take a photo and quite another to try to intimidate them from doing so.

It is very apparent from the video that the students and their teachers were ill-informed and those who physically interfered with and threatened Mr. Tai could have been charged with third degree assault under Missouri law. Fortunately Mr. Tai acted with the highest degree of professionalism while continuing to carry-out his assignment.

We hope the school administration will investigate this incident and take appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. It should also be used as a teachable moment where the school organizes a presentation to inform students and faculty as to the rights of others. As we have done in other situations around the country, the NPPA has already reached out to the school to offer our assistance in that regard.

The Missouri Press Association, the statewide trade association of 275 Missouri newspapers, said they supports Tai's right to document events at the university.
 
"The actions and words captured on video of MU students and staff are disappointing to advocates of free speech and the First Amendment," MPA President Jim Robertson said. "Public areas on the university campus are public for all individuals and the attempts by some to keep media from documenting the protests show a disturbing misunderstanding of how the First Amendment protects all individuals' rights and freedoms.

Robertson is also the managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune and president of the Missouri Press Association,
 
"Student photographer Tim Tai should be commended for not only defending his First Amendment rights to document the student and faculty protests on the MU campus, but doing so in such a manner as to avoid escalating tension," Robertson said.

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