I have never covered a riot but I can relate to the journalists trying to cover last weekend’s events.
Most journalists at one time or another put themselves at risk to cover THE story.
Journalists across the nation two weeks ago were shot at with rubber bullets. Some, including CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested live on the air while covering protests resulting from the death of George Floyd by a police officer.
The event that I was involved in that even remotely resembled those events was in Aggieville in 1975.
The Kansas State Wildcats had just upset Boston College 74-65 in the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament.
The bars in Aggieville that night were empty. Everyone, and it was a mob, was in the streets. Someone had set a fire on Moro Street. The mob rolled the trash from the nearby Hardees and dumped it onto the fire. A couple trucks actually drove through the fire.
I was just a green freshman standing on the sidewalk, watching. I walked up to someone I knew. (Can’t remember who because it was a long time ago. And I didn’t really remember the score of the game. My new friend duckduckgo whispered that into my ear.)
He was standing next to who I found out later was one of four Riley County police officers on duty in Aggieville.
There was nothing the police could do. There weren’t enough officers on the force to control the crowd.
At least the mob was celebrating at that time and not rioting out of anger. My friend pulled a pint of whiskey out of his pocket and took a shot.
It didn’t matter that he was standing on a public sidewalk next to a police officer.
But just like law enforcement that was attempting to do their jobs by controlling the rioters last recently, those journalists were putting themselves at risk in attempting to provide reports.
And, like those journalists that were trying to report on the riots across the nation last weekend, this reporter has been in several situations that many would consider dangerous.
Yes, on more than one occasion I have been told by law enforcement to move back.
While I have never been shot at, even with rubber bullets, I have covered bombings, shootings, stabbings and generally unhappy people in bad situations.
It was around noon on a Monday when co-reporter Erin Mathews and I were in the Salina office and she popped up.
“I heard bomb and school!” She said, listening to the scanner.
She called to see if it was a drill.
“I’ll go to South,” I said, mainly because I knew where Salina South was located.
“Waste of time,” I said to myself while driving down Ohio. But then I turned onto Magnolia and saw the lights flashing. Students were outside.
Pretty sure my heart skipped a beat as I thought a bomb had gone off in the school. But off to the left I saw a firetruck, police officers and the vehicle in which the bomb had exploded.
The occupant of that vehicle had been killed.
I wasn’t in any real danger since the police kept telling me to get back, but I can relate a tiny bit to those journalists putting themselves at risk to tell the story. That’s what they do.
I have never been arrested while doing my job, though. That possibility wasn’t even mentioned in journalism school.
Would we have known about Floyd’s death without civilian recordings being made public through news outlets? Who knows but I’m keeping my eyes on those reporters during these troubled times.