Sandy: Recognize the press

Micah Sandy, Opinion Editor


On Saturday, I got to attend my first-ever music festival: Dillo Day. I was elated by the opportunity to photograph it for WNUR News, pursuing my passion, keeping out of the crowds and enjoying the music.

I was surprised to learn that my press pass wouldn’t grant me access beyond the concert’s steel barricades. Instead, I was expected to use the pass to move to the front or sides of the floor area in the crowd — a task that seemed herculean. Adding a camera to the mix, I thought, would make it more difficult. 

And it did. 

I had never encountered moshing, but I learned fast it meant having physical contact at every angle with total strangers for 40 minutes –– while taking pictures of TiaCorine’s main stage performance. Mayfest also implemented a  blanket rule limiting press to photographing artists during their first three songs, so my intention was to leave after song two to get some crowd shots and a salad for lunch. Instead, I left with hip and knee pain, bruises and covered in sweat I hoped was my own.

Not only is my camera irreplaceable in terms of sentimental value, but as a student working to fund my education, ordering a new one isn’t an option. All throughout TiaCorine’s set, I felt like I was shielding my camera far more than getting any shots. 

I reached out to a member of Mayfest, asking if there was any way to have a designated area to photograph Briston Maroney, doing my best to temper my hopes. After I walked to Allison dining hall for an emergency Diet Coke and a bowl of grapes, I received a reply instructing me to forgo photographing Offset and focus on getting away safely if the crowd grew rowdier. 

I am very appreciative of that concern for my safety. But, what sticks with me now is the fact that the text they sent me didn’t have to exist. I didn’t have to walk out of that earlier set exhausted. We still managed to do our jobs, but all the other journalists and I needed Saturday was recognition. 

I initially considered using the word “respect,” but that implies a power dynamic, like that associated with the phrase “respect your elders.” With our photos and stories, journalists capture what happens. We don’t need the special treatment that may come with VIP passes — we just need the recognition that we have a different objective from that of the general public. When I saw The Lumineers with a friend last summer, my goals were to enjoy one of my favorite bands’ live performances, buy my first concert T-shirt and make memories. My goal on the Lakefill was to photograph, photograph and photograph some more. 

We need acknowledgment of our aims routinely. The same safety concerns can easily apply for sports photography, as Daily Senior Staffer Angeli Mittal cited in an article explaining what the Gameday staff would like to see in the new Ryan Field. We don’t really need much — just a small area where we can focus on the task at hand. I acknowledge many situations exist where journalists have much more at stake and less ability to cover events safely than a concert. When you can make something safer, the people who have the power to take action must do so.

In the end, we’re all students, and I don’t blame Mayfest at all. I’m not one to turn down any future opportunity to photograph, but journalists shouldn’t have to experience circumstances that threaten our equipment and safety when they can be easily avoided.

Micah Sandy is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.