The Beaufort County sheriff’s deputy told reporter Mike Valerio of WCTI-12 that he would not be allowed to shoot because doing so would jeopardize the investigation.
Valerio was allowed onto nearby property owned by relatives and he decided to shoot from there. The same deputy approached him again and told him not to record.
“He was forceful…even though I was on private property that a family member invited me onto,” Valerio said. “Shortly after I left the family member’s property and got back where they wanted me to be, he said they had just been through media training.”
Later that day, News Director Shane Moreland made a call to Sheriff Alan Jordan. Chief Deputy Kit Campbell returned the call and said that the concern was for the family and that it would seem in poor taste to film the scene.
“The government doesn’t tell us what’s tasteful or not,” Moreland said. “The community does.” After the conversation, Moreland reiterated to the newsroom to respect the crime scene but added, “They’re not going to tell us what to air.”
It is neither a police officer’s duty nor right to decide what constitutes appropriate news coverage of any story. That is solely an editorial decision to be made by each news organization. It is also well established that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street. So long as news personnel are in a public forum and not violating any ordinances they have a right to gather news unfettered by the personal feelings or opinions of law enforcement. Anything less may be considered a form of prior restraint thus creating a chilling effect upon a free press.