#ConcernedStudent1950 Activists Back Off Media Censorship, Call It A “Teachable Moment”

Apparently realizing how denying freedom of press in a public space looked for the movement, the organization released a memo to fellow activists telling them to allow media access.
concerned student 1950

Shortly after a historic moment on Monday when student activists achieved their goal of forcing out University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe (followed shortly by the resignation of the school’s chancellor), the narrative of the day quickly shifted to something quite different. With students and protesters celebrating the groundbreaking moment and realizing the change they had achieved, things got a bit ugly when members of the media tried to gain access to a public area of the campus to interview and record the events occurring.

In a moment that will surely be replayed over and over and over, students and other activists created a human chain around an encampment set up by Concerned Student 1950, the on-campus organization that was largely responsible for the resignation of the top two administrators. Video was captured of a professor, Melissa Click, asking for “muscle” to deny access to a student photographer who was attempting to get photos for ESPN. In what can only be described as pure irony, Click is a media teacher at the university and took to Facebook days earlier to ask the press to contact her for the ongoing story on campus.

The human chain around the public space, and Click’s actions, led to a heated debate on social media between activists (both at Mizzou and elsewhere) and members of the press. The protest community felt that the media is not to be trusted and have an agenda to show black activism in a negative light. Therefore, it is understandable that those leading the movement at Mizzou would want to control their own narrative. Meanwhile, journalists fought back, saying that you can’t restrict access while in public view as it violates the freedom of press and speech. Also, by trying to deal only with the media you like and pushing away others you feel have an agenda, you are effectively endorsing censorship.

After a day of back and forth on Twitter and Facebook, along with a number of thinkpieces on the subject already seeing publication (especially on conservative sites), the students behind the movement released a memo on Tuesday that they called a Teachable Moment.


Speaking with Collier Meyerson of Fusion, one of the original organizers of the movement stated that they are students and are learning as they go along.  


Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed within the movement and they realized that this is a fight that isn’t worth the effort. Even with the knowledge that many outlets are going to cover this event with a certain agenda or bias, you can’t restrict access while in a public space. You can refuse to talk to someone, you can walk away, you go inside to private area if you want to be left alone, but you can’t try to stop the press from reporting and doing its job. That is, at its heart, in complete opposition to the First Amendment.

Justin Baragona is the editor and publisher of Contemptor. Prior to starting the site, he worked on the editorial staff of PoliticusUSA. During that time, he had his work quoted by USA Today and BBC News, among others. Justin began his published career as a political writer for 411Mania. He currently resides in St. Louis, MO with his wife and pets.
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