Thursday, October 06, 2016

Ga. citizen journalist faces jail time

By Chris Joyner - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Oct. 6, 2016

Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016

Two years ago, Nydia Tisdale aimed her video camera at some of the state’s top political figures at a Republican rally in Dawsonville. Now, as a result, she’s fighting felony charges that could send her to prison for up to five years.

On Aug. 23, 2014, police charged Tisdale with obstructing an officer after a Dawson County sheriff’s deputy grabbed her, twisted her arm behind her and “frog marched” her out of a Republican candidate rally that had been otherwise open to the public. The felony charge carries a potential five-year prison sentence.

Tisdale is a citizen journalist who for years has filmed politicians in public forums from small council chambers to public events featuring Gov. Nathan Deal and other statewide officials. She also had been tossed from public forums before, so Tisdale kept the camera rolling as Capt. Tony Wooten pulled her from the forum.


The arrest put free press advocates on high alert, but even the most jaded among us find it hard to believe she is actually being prosecuted.


In an era of shrinking journalistic resources, Tisdale is an important piece in holding the powerful accountable.

For nearly two decades, newspapers and other professional news gathering organizations have tried to figure out the changing economics foisted upon us by the internet. Virtually every organization has adjusted by getting smaller, and that has had an effect on ground-level reporting.

There are fewer beat reporters to cover meetings of school boards, zoning boards and political rallies in pumpkin patches.


In 2000, about 56,400 people were employed in newspaper newsrooms around the country, according to the journalism non-profit Poynter Institute. By 2014, that number dropped to 32,900. More than 100 daily newspapers have closed their doors since 2004.

Into that vacuum have stepped people like Tisdale. She puts her videos on her YouTube channel, largely unedited and without commentary. She doesn’t ask questions; she doesn’t call herself a reporter.

Instead, she’s an unblinking eye staring at Roswell City Council meetings or a state senator’s town hall meeting. It’s a service, and one she provides solely to feed her passion for government transparency.


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