Clay Calvert Comments on News Media’s Role During Volatile Situations
Clay Calvert, director of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, was quoted in “Experts Question TV Station’s Role in Orlando Police Hostage Negotiation” published in the Orlando Sentinel on June 15.
The article focuses on a hostage situation where a man suspected of shooting an Orlando police officer in the head barricaded himself in an apartment with four children. Crisis negotiators tried to persuade the man to safely release the kids. However, at the same time, the suspect was also communicating with a WFTV-Channel 9 staffer. Experts in journalism ethics and law-enforcement tactics questioned the television station’s decision to initiate contact with a violent suspect during an active and volatile situation.
According to Calvert, journalists often must communicate with people in emotional or tense scenarios, reaching out to an armed person with hostages crosses a line.
“This wasn’t a case of obtaining an interview after the event had concluded,” Calvert said. “This was a case of a news organization injecting itself directly into the vortex of a dangerous event and possibly interfering with roles typically played by law enforcement officials … We expect journalists to report the news, not to become part of it.”