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The right to take a picture

Posted at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2007 by Melanie Sommer

One of MPR's reporters was on a story yesterday afternoon, a public meeting at which many people spoke and which several news organizations were covering, including TV stations and newspapers. Our reporter was taking photos of the participants for use on the MPR Web site, when one of the speakers said he would not allow her to take his picture. Why? Because he said he didn't like MPR, and his organization decided to "boycott" us. This individual has been covered extensively over the years by various Twin Cities media organizations, including us. Apparently he is unhappy with our recent coverage, or lack thereof.

So... what was the reporter to do? Take the man's photo anyway (which is perfectly acceptable, since it's a public event), and potentially create a larger distraction to the meeting underway? Or acquiesce, and take up the issue with the individual later -- one on one? Our reporter chose the latter, acknowledging that she was thrown off guard by being challenged in front of a room full of people -- and other photographers.

It's rare when reporters are asked NOT to take photos or use recording equipment in a public news situation, which makes this instance all the more noteworthy.