Sometimes, in the course of writing for the New York Times, you get your butt kicked. Longtime reporter David W. Dunlap recently experienced that fate. Literally.
He wrote in the City Room blog about his experience covering hip-hop street teams in the Flatiron nightclub district:
“I sensed a story on the evening of the 14th, when I came across two or three young men stapling posters for a new hip-hop album to lampposts, traffic signs and sidewalk scaffolding on Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets. […] I began photographing the poster operation. After about two minutes, one man asked me why I was taking pictures. “Because what you’re doing is illegal,” I replied. He answered, “Breaking cameras is illegal, too, but if you don’t stop taking pictures, I’ll break your camera.” […] Then, rather than antagonize him further, I started taking pictures of the poster-covered scaffold pipes across Broadway.
The approach came so swiftly, I cannot even say whether it was from in front or behind. But I do remember a furious face inches away from mine as the man said he had warned me not to take any more pictures. The next few minutes are as they say a blur. I was suddenly on my back on the sidewalk, near the curb, trying to hold on to my camera and fend off my assailant, with my right leg pressed against his chest.”
It’s worth keeping in mind here that Dunlap was barely the same age as his attackers he has been writing for the Times for nearly 30 years.
Dunlap declined to press charges. The men who assaulted him were putting up posters promoting the Atlanta-based Island Def Jam rapper Rocko (“Umma Do Me”). Rocko’s management company is Emanon Musiq Management, also of Georgia. Promotional “street teams” are customarily hired in the hip-hop industry through management firms.
Meanwhile, the comments thread of the City Room entry is a masterpiece of entitled types up in arms that someone photographed doing an illegal act by a reporter would hit them.
Maybe we’re cynical and used to hearing about this crap relatively often, but if you’re a reporter… It’s an on-the-job hazard. You get used to it and move on. That said, Dunlap is one of our favorite reporters at the Times and we’re upset this happened to him. Hope you’re feeling alright, David.
(Image via City Room/New York Times)