EDITOR’S NOTE: In an attempt at “less is more,” we’re trying out the Axios approach to working through some of the more “event-based” posts. Tell us what you think in the comments. — VFF
The Lead: NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert was arrested at Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference on Wednesday after law-enforcement officials said he should not have been doing a live shot while the governor was talking.
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — While Gov. Mike DeWine and other local, state, and federal officials were announcing the lifting of the East Palestine train derailment evacuation order on Wednesday, a reporter at the briefing was taken into custody.
The reporter, identified as Evan Lambert of NewsNation, was apparently trying to do a live report as the news conference was taking place inside the gymnasium at the East Palestine Elementary School. Video captured by 3News shows law enforcement surrounding Lambert and ordering him to leave.
- Lambert was doing his live shot when several law-enforcement officials confronted him. A discussion ensued with allegations that Lambert was acting aggressively and Lambert noting that one of the officials escalated the situation with physical contact. Officials moved Lambert into the hall of the gymnasium before taking him to the ground and forcing handcuffs on him.
- He was booked at the Columbiana County Jail on suspicion of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing before being released five hours later. Lambert said in an interview with NewsNation that the charges are still pending as of Friday.
- DeWine said that he always lets people do live shots of this nature before, during and after he speaks. He added later he was sorry that this happened to Lambert and did not want to see him prosecuted on these charges.
See it: The Ohio State Highway Patrol released the body-cam footage of the arrest, which starts in the gym and continues for several minutes after Lambert is led away:
Fallout: NewsNation condemned the arrest immediately, with multiple other groups, including the Society for Professional Journalists and the East Liverpool/Wellsville NAACP Chapter, issuing statements that condemned the way Lambert was treated.
The police issued a statement as well. I won’t say it’s totally self-serving crap, but I will say if you watch any of the video versions of what actually happened and read this press release at the same time, you will find limited congruity:
Dynamics of Writing Flashback: We had a similar incident a number of years ago that we covered on the blog, with journalist Alex Crowe explaining how he was arrested covering a protest in Milwaukee. At least the Milwaukee Sheriff’s Department had the good sense to release him at the scene instead of marching him off to jail.
Key Takeaway: The First Amendment protects the freedom of the press, but not freedom from people who are in power and choose to take matters into their own hands. In this case, Crowe’s case and other similar cases, officials can get bent out of shape because they don’t like the way we’re doing our jobs, so they overreach and do stuff like this. In short, you shouldn’t end up in jail because of something like this, but you need to be prepared for it all the same, unfortunately.
CLASSROOM EXERCISE: Watch the bodycam footage as a class and discuss the incident, putting yourself into the shoes of the reporter (or the officials if you are so inclined). At what point would you have decided to back down, or would you have at all? What issues do you think played a role in this arrest, based on the footage and the statements issued by the various organizations cited above? Also, would you be willing to go to jail in a situation like this?