Crimes Against News Crews in Oakland, California Cause Rethinking of Live Coverage

Police tape
ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

Journalists who cover crime in Oakland, California, are now becoming the victims of crimes as news crews are being robbed of expensive equipment. And those crimes include the recent shooting death of a security guard who was working for a local media outlet.

“The tragic turn of events last week and the unabating levels of violent crime has caused us to further enhance our safety procedures,” Jim Rose, vice president and general manager of KRON, said in a statement. “We have made immediate adjustments in our news gathering process and are also actively reviewing longer-term systemic changes to our coverage of the Bay Area.”

On Friday, a San Francisco Chronicle photographer was robbed at gunpoint while on assignment in West Oakland. Multiple suspects took two cameras and left in a vehicle, a city police spokesperson said. The photographer was not injured.

“Any incident in which a person is robbed of their possessions at gunpoint is incredibly troubling,” Chronicle Editor in Chief Emilio Garcia-Ruiz said in the news outlets report on the growing attacks on news crews on the streets in Oakland. “We are a part of this community and we will not retreat from providing the news and information it needs.”

Violence against news crews is not new, but it is increasing, according to the Chronicle:

In the past two years the violence has escalated, heightening fears for reporters accustomed to doing live shots and real-time dispatches at scenes. One Bay Area TV reporter said in an interview that stations are trying to figure out how to “safely do our jobs” and “not ignore Oakland” in news coverage.

In June this year, armed robbers held up members of a KNTV news crew as they interviewed the chief of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention outside City Hall.

[Retired reporter Joe] Vazquez and others hope to see reform after the death of Kevin Nishita, the former Colma police officer and security guard who on Nov. 24 intercepted a group trying to rob a KRON crew on 14th Street in Oakland. The assailants shot Nishita, and he died three days later. No arrests have been made.

“We want our news crews to keep coming to Oakland and Alameda County,” Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said in the Chronicle report.

Kelly suggested what television stations could do to prevent crews from getting robbed, including relying more on remote interviews, filming some footage with an iPhone instead of a large and expensive camera, and doing stand-ups at a police station instead of on the street.

“We want them to cover the news,” Kelly said. “We see it as one of our constitutional obligations to have a free press.”

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