It's remarkable how little attention the press has paid to the crackdown on journalists during September's Republican National Convention, says the Boston Phoenix. It seems that close to 50 journalists were detained or arrested in St. Paul (out of approximately 800 arrests total) while covering protests outside the convention. Some of them were treated gently and released quickly, but others were held at length or roughed up by the police. A pre-convention raid on a St. Paul home targeted members of I-Witness Video, a New York group whose work exonerated hundreds of protesters following the 2004 RNC. And while St. Paul city attorney John Choi announced that many cases against journalists wouldn't be pursued – in particular, those involving the possible misdemeanor count of presence at an unlawful assembly – these decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis and are far from complete.
The story was ignored or minimized by important news organizations like the New York, and it never seemed to generate any sort of sustained concern inside the media itself, the efforts of groups like the Society for Professional Journalists notwithstanding. In the words of Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, “It never really got into the conversation at a level where it had an impact.” The subdued media response sent the message that “we don't care all that much when our watchdog role is threatened,” says the Phoenix. This was reinforced by the revelation that some Minnesota reporters were allowed to travel with police – to “embed,” essentially – and promised legal immunity, in exchange for not reporting on law enforcement's behavior until the convention ended.