I’m not suggesting for a second that the killing of Michael Brown and the eruption of anger and violence in Ferguson isn’t a hugely important story. But we all know how the massive media machine, once it clanks into action, changes the very thing on which it is reporting. The journalistic invasion of Ferguson is absolutely inflaming the situation on the streets, drawing troublemakers who want the exposure. They see the bright lights, they see correspondents who are openly sympathetic to the protestors, and it’s become a nightly reality show.
Of course, every news organization wants to be there. And for Fox or CNN or ABC or CBS to just pick up and leave would be meaningless, because everyone else, including freelancers and bloggers, would remain behind.
There has been some solid street reporting by journalists who have had to dodge tear gas, rubber bullets and at least one cursing cop issuing threats. Some have also had to deal with taunts and rock-throwing from demonstrators. It can be dangerous work.
But I’ve also been troubled by the degree of grandstanding by certain journalists who want to be provocative or make a scene—in short, to make the story about them.