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Inside the Philando Castile Rally: A reporter's perspective with City Pages' Susan Du

Sunday, April 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Meagan Lynch, student at University of Minnesota
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by Meagan Lynch

Student in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota


Journalists get their start in many different ways. Some know in the early years exactly what they want to do. Others, like City Pages' staff writer Susan Du, don’t figure it out until college. With a passion for writing, she knew she wanted to continue doing it in school. It wasn’t until college that she fell in love with journalism.


During college, Du worked with a number of publications and landed her first job post graduation with the Houston Press. Through her experiences there, she found she enjoyed the style of writing that came with writing for alternative weekly publications. This eventually led her to a full-time position at City Pages in 2014.


Du has written about a number of intriguing events within the Minneapolis and St. Paul area while working with City Pages. She describes the publication as the, “most creative and liberating paper I’ve ever worked for.” The investigative pieces that were the most exciting to write included an underground sex club in Minneapolis and a man suspected of murdering his wife on their wedding night.


While Du is well-versed in the art of investigative journalism, she is also experienced in something journalists dread: getting arrested on the job.


On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by officer Jeronimo Yanez who shot and killed him. From that day, an uprising of Black Lives Matter movements and protests ensued. The movement continued until the day of Officer Yanez’s hearing in June. Eventually, he was found not guilty and the community was infuriated. What started as a small gathering in solidarity with Castile’s mother on the day of the verdict turned into a large scale protest.


Du was one of the local journalists sent to cover the protest.


“It was a big day. As rare as police prosecutions are, everyone (including local media) thought Yanez would get stuck with something. Reckless discharge at least,” says Du. “People everywhere were heartbroken and angry and I had a responsibility to capture the different ways in which they were processing it.”


Like many other media professionals, Du was there to do her job. Unfortunately, her attendance resulted in getting caught up in the crowd once police arrived to disburse the protest. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and found herself detained with 17 other people. Du said she was terrified at the idea of word getting out that a City Pages reporter had been arrested, and the time and money that follows with being sent to jail.


After the initial shock of her arrest, Du says, “[She] snapped back into reporter mode and took some pictures, chatted with other arrestees with the idea that I was going to write about all of it later.”


According to Du, getting arrested didn’t mean her shift was over. She recognized it as a valuable time to be in the present and get information so she could share her endeavors once she was out.  


Du has covered many protests in the past, but this was her first time getting caught up with the police. Fortunately, this experience has made her and fellow reporters more aware of their surroundings and have a better understanding of how to look out for each other when covering future protests and events that could lead to how the Castile rally ended.


For journalists who find themselves in a similar situation Du says, “Don’t get arrested. When it seems like people are going to get arrested, run fast. If you are arrested, stay calm, don’t worry, be respectful, carry yourself with dignity and take lots of mental notes because you’ll get some really good material. Enjoy jail – not everyone gets to experience it in the course of legitimate work. If the CO brings milk, take it, in case one of your cellmates has gotten maced and needs to wash his/her face with it.”


Editor’s Note: As a way to support the next generation of public relations professionals, we regularly feature articles written students from within our extended community. Many of you teach and have already seen the thoughtful insights offered by students. For those of you who haven’t, now’s your chance.


Students, want to learn more about the industry? Reach out to our student relations committee to learn how you can get involved in PRSSA and PRSA. Students involved in PRSSA gain access to professional development opportunities, scholarships, the opportunity to be published and more.


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