By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Mayor Wu’s Mass and Cass coverage guidelines violate press freedoms

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu campaigns in 2021. Photo by Lex Weaver via Global Observer, a publication of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

The day before city workers were set to dismantle the tents occupied by homeless people at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s press office sent out some instructions to members of the media: keep 50 feet away; don’t take photos or videos of people’s faces; allow outreach workers to talk with people in private.

Later on, the 50-foot rule was amended to 10 feet.

The area around Mass and Cass, it should go without saying, is public property. The media are free to do what they like. They should act ethically, of course, but that’s on the reporters and photographers, not on the city. And Wu’s rules go beyond basic ethics and decency. Why shouldn’t the press be able to get close enough to interview people as long as they’re not interfering with city workers? Why shouldn’t they be able to take photos and shoot video of people who’ve given their consent?

Bad move by the mayor. We’ll see how it plays out.

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1 Comment

  1. pauljbass

    We have encountered similar rules with covering dismantling of homeless encampments in our city. I agree such rules are outrageous. They are also patronizing and controlling: homeless people, like anyone else, have the right to decide if they want to tell their story! And they often do, when we cover stories like this. And indeed, this is a public action taking place on public property. I do think the rule-makers (sometimes government, as here, sometimes social workers) do operate out of good intentions to protect vulnerable people. I agree with Dan that the media needs to take responsibility: Not to interfere with officials undertaking an operation, and to respect people’s privacy and desires not to speak to a reporter if that’s the case.

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