As a journalist, the freedom of the press granted to me and my fellow professionals is something I take seriously and appreciate wholeheartedly.
More often than not, when I introduce myself at meetings, events or anything I’m trying to cover for the paper, people immediately do whatever they can to help me get the full story.
All I have to do is say my name, give my credentials, flash my press pass or hand out a business card and I’m verified and ready to continue what I was doing.
But for people like Nydia Tisdale who are self-proclaimed citizen journalists, trying to get the full story can be nearly impossible sometimes.
Tisdale is a known fixture in local politics as someone who attends and films as many government meetings as she can.
Usually, she also doesn’t have a problem when she comes in and sets up her camera and tripod.
But she’s had her fair share of trouble, including in 2014 when she was forcibly removed by Dawson County Sheriff Capt. Tony Wooten from Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville during a political rally.
She went to trial last week and was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of obstruction of a law enforcement officer, but was found not
guilty of a felony charge for obstruction and criminal trespass misdemeanor.
Tisdale claims she was in pain when she was removed and that she had permission to film. Wooten said he told her who she was, which she said didn’t happen.
No matter the verdict, to hear stories like this are frightening in our field.
While Tisdale may not have the official title of “journalist” to back her up, she is still a member of the public who attended an open event and was filming for those who were unable to be there in person.
I’ve watched her video from that day and it seems like she was minding her own business until some people with power decided they didn’t want to be filmed anymore just because they said so.
Former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens was at the event, took a photo with Tisdale prior to this incident and testified last week.
He summed it up well when he said all elected officials should assume in this day and age they are being filmed.
How can we truly know what’s going on behind closed doors in the governments we are required to abide by if they won’t let a local woman film a few campaign speeches at a pumpkin patch?
If this is what happens when being filmed, in public and with multiple big-name witnesses, what do we need see?
Nydia Tisdale is fighting the good fight for transparency for everyone, not just official, professional journalists.
She attends meetings we are unable to due to time constraints and gets her videos, or Nydios as she calls them, out to us quickly and typically in full form with minimal editing.
As a reporter, I appreciate that. I’ve watched some of her videos for stories.
If we decide to now start censoring what she’s doing, transparency will just get cloudier.
Keep up the great work, Nydia. I stand behind you.