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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bloggers’ role in question

    Supporters of political candidates rally at the UA Votes 2006 Block Party Oct. 4. Political science senior Garrett OHara said that an assistant of Congressman Raul Grijalva pulled a microphone from him while he interviewed the congressman at the block party.
    Supporters of political candidates rally at the UA Votes 2006 Block Party Oct. 4. Political science senior Garrett O’Hara said that an assistant of Congressman Raul Grijalva pulled a microphone from him while he interviewed the congressman at the block party.

    A UA student blogger said an interview with Rep. Raul Grijalva was forcibly cut short by a staff member, an incident that has raised questions about a blogger’s evolving role in the world of journalism.

    Garrett O’Hara, a political science senior who runs the Web log “”The Arizona Growler: Where higher education collides with Christianity, capitalism and common sense,”” was recording interviews at UA’s Rock the Vote event on Oct. 6 when the incident took place.

    O’Hara said one of Grijalva’s assistants told him to stop recording what she said was a “”private conversation”” between Grijalva and his opponent, Ron Drake.

    When O’Hara did not stop recording, the assistant forcefully switched off the microphone and ripped the cable from the recorder, O’Hara said.

    O’Hara declined to comment yesterday on whether or not he is in the process of taking legal action against the staff member, but he said the broader issue stemmed from a portion of the interview when Grijalva accused him of posing as a journalist.

    On the recording, the two men were arguing about gun-control policies, and after O’Hara asserted that he thought students should be able to carry guns on campus, Grijalva said, “”Journalism is about asking a question and allowing a response.””

    “”I think journalism could also be about presenting a point of view and allowing others to respond,”” O’Hara said on the recording.

    “”Don’t pretend to be a journalist when you’re not,”” Grijalva replied.

    The exchange triggered a conversation about a blogger’s role in journalism.

    O’Hara said that he does not see himself as a “”traditional journalist.””

    “”The Internet has definitely been a catalyst to … seeing more citizens getting involved,”” O’Hara said.

    Natalie Luna, press secretary for Grijalva, said O’Hara passed himself off as a journalist although he was a blogger.

    Bloggers have more of a “”mouthpiece,”” as they can be objective or not objective as they choose, Luna said.

    Luna said there was initial confusion because Grijalva though O’Hara was a reporter with the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    However, when O’Hara did not get the answers he wanted, he began attacking Grijalva, Luna said.

    Kevin R. Kemper, an assistant UA journalism professor who teaches the course Law of the Press, said the question of whether or not a blogger is a journalist is still an open legal debate, especially in Arizona.

    “”A better question is what protections should bloggers receive. … Not every blogger is a journalist, but I think that freedom of expression and freedom of information belongs to all people, not just journalists,”” Kemper said.

    Kemper said he could not comment on the alleged altercation because he wasn’t there, but in general, “”bloggers ought to have the same First Amendment protections as any other communicator.””

    O’Hara said that aside from the overall condescending attitude of the assistant, she did not physically harm him or his equipment.

    “”She lightly placed her hand on my arm and said, ‘You’re done,'”” O’Hara said.

    In his blog, O’Hara wrote that the only casualty from the confrontation was a cable adapter that allowed him to connect the microphone to the recorder.

    “”I ended up combing my hand through the sand below me to see if this adapter was around; I have no way of telling whether she had the adapter in hand or simply threw it away whether by incident or intention,”” O’Hara wrote.

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