In recent months, journalists covering crime and other stories in Oakland have themselves become victims of crime, robbed of expensive cameras, sometimes at gunpoint, reports the New York Times. Laura Oda, chief photographer for the Oakland Tribune, has been robbed of her equipment while on assignment twice since last August. In less than a year, every major television news station in the Bay Area has been a victim, some more than once. One experienced newspaper photographer has lost five cameras.
In the most brazen episode, a group of men punched a KPIX-TV cameraman while he was filming at midday in front of an Oakland high school. The robbers fled with his camera while it was still recording. Viewers saw the reporter sign off and then an inexplicably wobbly image. Robberies and assaults are changing the way journalists report in Oakland. Armed, plainclothes security guards sometimes accompany news crews on pieces, even mundane ones. Some camera crew members are refusing to take assignments in Oakland at night. And while crime provides the daily drama for much of the local television news, reporters are spending less time on the street and more time at the Oakland police department. Once the police leave a crime scene, television crews depart as well. “We're not going to go door to door anymore,” said a television reporter. The union representing many journalists, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, is calling for safety measures that include security guards, security cameras on news vehicles, and GPS devices in cameras. It reminded news stations that crews can “refuse dangerous assignments when appropriate.”