Yesterday, I was at the rodeo in Red Bluff when a bull jumped the fence and got into the crowd. We don't have all the details still, but as far as we know he injured six people and several went to the hospital, nothing critical, but at least one person is still being monitored.
At the time, I was actually in the sportsmedicine trailer with a rider who had just broken his leg. When I ran out, they were carrying people into ambulances. It took me a second to get my head around what was happening, but as soon as I did I started to try and make pictures. A young girl was lying on a stretcher being responded to by paramedics so with a long lens I stepped back to make a picture. Almost immediately, I was confronted by a Sheriff's deputy who told me I did not need to be making pictures of this situation and that I need to give the family space. I was already fairly far back, but in the commotion, I decided to give them space and go around to the back to another angle, again with a long lens. At that point I was confronted by a rodeo official who stood directly in my line of site and then told me to leave the situation. Another official proceeded to then corral me until all the ambulances left.
I argued my case, as respectfully as possible with both the deputy and the official, telling them that I was only doing my job and absolutely trying to stay out of the way. Neither budged.
As a photographer, I hate these situations. The last thing I want to do is invade someone's space during a tragic event. But it is my job to report on the news. Period. At no point did I get in the way of emergency workers, and at not point did I try to get in the face of any victims. And, the rodeo was held on a public fair grounds.
The result is that I came away with one bad picture that does very little to report on the chaos of the scene. Again, I would have much rather the event not happened. But it did, and I was kept from doing my job. The fact that I was prevented from making pictures was reported in the article we ran today and there has been an enormous response by the readers, most criticizing the deputy and the rodeo officials for restricting me. My photo editor and the editor of the paper are meeting to figure out how we will respond.
It's straight out of a handbook on the 1st Ammendment and I feel like I am back in my law class for journalists.
Apr 21, 2008
Posted by Jakob Schiller at 12:24 PM