Thursday, April 05, 2007

Actions Speak Louder

BY GUEST BLOGGER: Joshua Ligairi

It is ironic that I find myself invited to write my first guest-blog for this site as it was only hours ago that I told a BYU representative face-to-face that I have absolutely nothing to do with the This Divided State Blog. That was true until this very moment.

The occasion for our little run-in was a question and answer session between BYU students and BYU President, Cecil Samuelson, held in BYU's Varsity Theater in Provo, Utah. Samuelson fielded questions on a variety of topics, but the overwhelming majority were on the subject of Vice President Cheney's scheduled visit to BYU later this month.

BYU President, Cecil Samuelson

BYU Democrats President, Diane Bailey, was applauded by Samuelson for her efforts to keep yesterday's on-campus protest civil and respectful. Other students' questions were ignored outright as Samuelson found them to be redundant, uninformed, or offensive in nature. He took special offense to a question by one student as to why his sign had been taken away following yesterday's protest, refusing to answer. But Samuelson was generally pleasant and warmed to some easier questions like "How did you become so successful?" and "Will you attend our club party?"

After the Q&A I was subject once again to questioning by a BYU representative about why I was rolling tape. The issue is that out-of-the-gate they misunderstood our intention to use the footage we were shooting in a film. We didn't bother with contacting them about commercial film release as our first priority was for spot news, The Huffington Post, this blog, etc. Bryan Young did speak to Carri Jenkins (BYU Spokesperson) yesterday about shooting on campus and she gave her approval. Later, when she realized that we may use some of this footage in a film, she recanted and went so far as to scratch her signature off of our release form.

Anyone that reads the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, listens to NPR, or watches the local news (not to mention Al-Jazeera) knows that it was a media circus yesterday. Why should we be singled out? Come to find out that spot news is the only circumstance under which BYU will approve of our filming the Cheney protests on campus. The idea is that we aren't legitimate media because documentary films are commercial in nature. Other than the possible exceptions of the Daily Universe and NPR, I'd say that all of the media outlets represented at yesterday's event are commercial in nature. The New York Times may be free on BYU campus, but I paid fifty cents for my copy this morning. Newsweek isn't handing out hard copies to whoever wants them. CBS isn't paying its bills with wooden nickels. The idea that we stand to make even the slightest fraction of what any of these media outlets make with our little indie project is absurd. The real danger is that rather than a 20 second news blip that airs one day only, a documentary can be rewatched and redistributed several times while, with regards to content, get deep into an issue and take time to hear what people are really saying. That's harder to spin if you do P.R. for BYU.

We are covering this story because it affects our community. We're covering this story because it is in the public's interest. We are working for free while sacrificing time from other paying projects. And so we'll continue to shoot footage and try to make it available to the public and the "legitimate media"—but that follow up to This Divided State (a film roundly regarded as one of the most objective political documentaries in years) that you've been hoping for may be far off if BYU won't speak. Although sometimes, actions can speak louder than words.


Anonymous said...

Josh may not have seen it but President Samuelson put a girl into tears during the meeting.

The Silent Observer said...

CBS isn't paying its bills with wooden nickels.

Canadian nickels. They pay their bills with Canadian nickels.

Anonymous said...

BYU doesn't want someone there that loves their daughter unconditionally even though she is gay. But, I assure you that there are other mormon families that have gay individuals and they are hiding the fact. What about all the incest in their communities? Would someone like that be a better speaker? Cheney can give wonderful speeches, if people will just listen to him. He was successful in his private life for a very long time, and can teach these grads. something, if they will listen and not judge!

Anonymous said...

Is it any surprise that BYU isn't cooperating with the This Divided State crew?

Greenstreet proudly flaunted the fact that he held an unauthorized screening last year on BYU's campus. Furthermore, his blog entries plainly express his disdain for the university in a derogatory and offensive way.

It’s a private University, and they have the right to deny Greenstreet and his ilk access. Who wouldn't, when his obvious motivation to smear the school is so apparent?

This is cliché, but if you don't like it, don't attend BYU. If you find a private institution and its sponsoring body so repugnant, than don't accept a heavily subsidized education from them and leave.

I'm not pleased about Cheney coming to Utah, and I was happy to see most students and faculty protest in a way that respected the rule of law. Apparently some of you find this type of protest insufficient, and feel the need to disassociate yourself from BYU. Do what you need to do, but understand that BYU’s rights as a private institution are not trumped by your lack of understanding of the first amendment’s scope.

As for Greenstreet and company, BYU seems to have it right this time. You are far from legitimate, and have as much a place on BYU's campus as a prostitute.

Steven said...

Anonymous coward,

I'm still proud of the fact that we screened THIS DIVIDED STATE at BYU without permission.

That was way awesome.

As far as me having "as much a place on BYU's campus as a prostitute", that must mean I'm welcome with open arms.

Cuz they're having a prostitute speak at their graduation.

Anonymous said...

The "anonymous coward" made some very solid points that you ignored.
I was there protesting, but I can totally understand why BYU takes issue with you filming, and the above post delineated these points very well. I would appreciate it if you addressed each. Thanks.
-Another anonymous coward

Steven said...

Another anonymous BYU coward,

I'll bet you would.


Bryan said...

Hello everyone, Bryan here. I hope we can make this constructive.

To address what seemed to rub Anonymous the wrong way it seems as though they probably haven't seen This Divided State. Our obvious motivations have never been to smear anyone, the school or otherwise with our films. What we say in forums such as this might belie that goal, but all our "obvious motivation" is is to document the events as they happen.

Because we have opinions that might be contrary to the places that we might be reporting on, doesn't put our legitimacy as journalists at cross purposes. Although BYU might claim otherwise, there was no reasonable expectation of privacy at the events we've covered, private property or otherwise and if they behave in a way that makes them "smear" themselves, that is purely their fault, not ours.

We documented security men from BYU intimidating students and rounding up signs and interviewed students about it after the fact. It's on film and it's newsworthy.

As for the screening of This Divided State on campus, I had nothing to do with that and will have to let Steve speak to that.

But I would ask what your motivations are. I would also ask who you are. Because it seems like you have an anti-Greenstreet, anti-news agenda. I mean honestly, because we cover a subject does that obligate us to make them look as good as possible? Or report on the events the way they happened? As journalists of integrity, we have no plans of washing things either way. We're simply documenting and private-property or not, BYU doesn't have the right to prevent us from filming events that other news organizations are covering.

And I would wonder where you feel our lack of understanding of the first amendment comes in? The only think I have a lack of understanding for is your accusation of our lack of understanding.

And just because Steve runs a little close to the edge sometimes, I wonder why you would feel that we have no place documenting these events.


Anonymous said...

BYU makes itself look bad. It doesn't take Greenstreet to do that for them. They just don't like their dirty laundry shown in public but then again, who does.

Joshua said...

It's worth mentioning here that Steven Greenstreet was not with us when we were filming on campus. At the time, they had no idea that we were connected to him in any way. In fact, they were totally cool to us until they realized the coverage we were getting could end up in a documentary. Why? I would guess that it is because a documentary can spend the time that is necessary to find out what is really going on in a way that the local news can't(?). It had nothing to do with Steven, his politics, this site, or even the movie This Divided State. It had everything to do with being able to control the spin.