The winning drive of a high school football game, spending a day documenting life in a small town, graduating seniors throwing their mortarboards in the air. One of the great parts about being a photojournalist at a newspaper in this area is all the great moments you have the opportunity to capture through the lens and all the people you meet on a daily basis. Most of the time.
The photographers and reporters from the newsroom go to countless assignments, some scheduled weeks or days in advance, some scheduled the same day and others can be assigned to us just by listening to our local law and emergency officials on the scanner. Fire calls, police calls and anything we may think our readers may be interested in can be added at any time into our daily schedule. We don't enjoy taking photos of people's anguish or their worst possible days and our job one recent Friday was no exception. A call came over the scanner with the Marblehead fire department being called to move utility lines at the scene of a crash that had just occurred. Photographer Angela Wilhelm was available and I sent her to check it out.
When she arrived to take photos of the crashed car a woman stood in her way and asked her to respect she and her daughter's privacy and please not take any photos. Angela told the woman that it was her job to take the photos and since the crash happened in public and there were public services being used to investigate and clear the scene Angela had every right to take photos from the public street she was standing. The woman still would not budge and Angie called me to find out what she should do.
Our job is to take photos, many times we take them and they never see the pages of the Sandusky Register or sanduskyregister.com. Minor fender benders or someone's toaster fire isn't too big of a deal to all of you out there. And as much as anyone doesn't like to admit it, almost everyone slows down and rubbernecks when passing breaking news.
Minor or not, we still take the photos in case of a crash that doesn't seem too serious turns into something more serious and something you, the readers, want to know more about. Case in point, the tragic crash a couple weeks ago that took the life of Christopher Nichols. What seemed like a minor crash ended the life of a little boy.
The crash in Marblehead did not look too serious, as Angela told me on the phone. I told her to get a few photos and come back into the office.
When Angie returned to get a couple photos, the woman was even more irate questioning Angela's personal ethics and then calling her a name that starts with a "b" and ends with an... Angela told the woman she had to get the photo as it was her job and assured the woman that her daughter's name wouldn't be in the paper as she was a minor. This did not change the woman's demeanor.
As you can see from the photo above, the woman told Angela to "put this in your paper" and stood in front of the car with both fingers in the air. She also put a young boy in front of the vehicle because the police officer at the scene of the crash told the woman we couldn't put the photo in the paper if there was a minor pictured, advice that was not correct. (CORRECTION- The officer at the scene of the crash was NOT a Marblehead police officer- I spoke to Chief Greg Fultz of the Marblehead police department and another law enforcement agency handled the crash.)
I talked to the woman after Angela gave her my phone number and in the conversation we agreed to disagree. She asked me what I would do in the same situation, if it were my child driving the car. I would like to think that my focus would be on my child and not worry about whether someone was taking photos or not.
Just a couple ground rules in case you have an unfortunate event happen to you and one of our reporters or photographers have to do our job and come out report on it…
1) If a photographer or reporter is standing on a public sidewalk or street and taking photos or reporting we are legally allowed to do so, just as much as anyone else with a cell phone camera can take photos. It may be a private situation to you, but if the event is in public where police and fire have to show up, the newspaper may have to cover it. A link HERE to the ACLU website gives more information about photographing from a public place and photographing law enforcement doing their jobs.
2) Calling us names doesn't help the situation.
3) Standing in front of a car and throwing obscene hand gestures in the air may not make the pages of the Sandusky Register, but it might call for a blog to explain the rights of journalists when we are trying to do our jobs.
We aren't the paparazzi, but we do sometimes get behind a fire truck or rescue squad on the way out to a call, so I guess technically you could call us "ambulance chasers." As bad as some people think it may be, we have a job to do and the reporters and photographers from the Sandusky Register will try to use the utmost respect while still doing our jobs.