Protesters in Augusta, Maine (AP photo by Robert Bukaty)
By Tom Jones
Senior Media Writer
The Poynter Institute

Kevin Vesey is a reporter for News 12, a streaming news outlet on Long Island. Over the weekend, he was covering a protest from those who want the country to be reopened. As he filmed the protesters, Vesey was verbally harassed with comments of “fake news” and “enemy of the people” and chants of “fake news is not essential.”

Another protester wearing a Trump shirt repeatedly stepped toward Vesey even after Vesey asked him to back away. The protester said, “No, I got hydroxychloroquine, I’m fine” and then gave the camera a middle finger.

I recently wrote how protesters in Phoenix mocked reporters for wearing masks, saying things like “you’re on the wrong side of patriotism” and calling the reporters “communists.” The New York Times’ Marc Tracy has also written about reporters being confronted by protesters in Ohio, Michigan and California, where a man pulled a knife on a reporter.

Here’s the part I don’t get. Isn’t a big part of protesting to draw attention to your cause? Wouldn’t you want the media to be there?

So why would you threaten the reporters who are there to broadcast what you are saying? Few things put a damper on a protest like a lack of attention. A good way to make sure nobody knows about your protest is to menace the reporters there to cover you.

The sad part for the protesters is instead of discussing the merits and arguments for reopening the country, the only discussion coming out of those protests is how they treated the media. That’s the protesters’ fault.

Instead of giving thoughtful quotes about their personal experiences and why it’s important for the economy to get back on track, these protesters chose to use valuable airtime to accost the media and make sarcastic remarks about hydroxychloroquine. It’s a baffling choice that is short-sighted and pointless to their cause.

You might argue, “What’s the big deal?” These protests, in the grand scheme of things, don’t involve that many people. But here’s what makes it a big deal: The president of the United States is supporting these kinds of attacks on the media.

President Donald Trump retweeted the video of the Long Island protesters to his nearly 80 million Twitter followers and said, “People can’t get enough of this. Great people!”

With Trump condoning such behavior, it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before the verbal attacks become physical.

Sadly, I predict something tragic is going to happen as the protesters become bolder and bolder and their contempt for the media grows — a contempt fueled by the president.