copyright Dan Raphael February 2001
One afternoon this school quarter I was eating lunch on campus at Ackerman Union when I noticed a cameraman videotaping individuals as they were eating.† At first he took sweeping shots of the room but then he began taking close-ups of people eating lunch.† Some shots were looking over patrons' shoulders, videotaping what they were reading, sneaking up behind them without asking permission or even telling them that they were on camera.† When he got closer, I asked the cameraman who he was.† He didnít say a word and continued taping the guy sitting in the booth next to me.† I stood up and told the patron that he was on camera.† He looked up from his book and saw a videocamera pointed at his face from three feet away.
The cameraman became belligerent and told me not to interrupt him while he's working, even as the patron in the booth angrily objected to being taped.† I again asked the cameraman who he was and why he was videotaping us without asking permission.† He refused to reveal who he was, but declared that restaurant management had given him permission to videotape the restaurantís patrons and that besides, UCLA is a public university and therefore he can videotape whatever he wants.† I strongly disagreed with him and told him so, and our heated conversation soon caught the attention of a woman on the other side of the room who quickly ran over and indentified herself as CNN reporter Traci Tamura.† She apologized for the cameramanís aggression as well as the invasion of privacy, and said that they were doing a news story on people watching or ignoring soap operas on the monitors during lunchtime.
I then went to the office of restaurant management and asked if CNN had been given authorization to do this.† The head manager appeared very concerned and called UCLA Media Relations to clarify.† The Media Relations representative said that no, UCLA had not given permission for anything other than sweeping shots of the room.† She also indicated that legally, there is a different standard for videotaping indoors vs. outdoors, and that because we were indoors the cameraman was mistaken about the legality of his actions.† Lastly, she noted, the fact that UCLA is a "public" university is irrelevant.
In the days following the event, I tried to define exactly what it was that disturbed me so much.† First of all, a hostile cameraman in my face was certainly part of it and perhaps CNN needs to hear about that.† But more importantly, I believe my main grievance is with the university.
In Dr. Maack's historical research methodology class two weeks earlier we heard a guest lecture by the director of the UCLA Oral History program who told us about all the steps the university must take in order to secure permission from human documentary subjects.† No interview may take place until the subject signs the university's legal documents stating that the interviewee agrees to be interviewed and that ownership of the interview belongs to the university.† In the director's words, this is necessary to secure the academic integrity of the university.† No signature, no interview.
How ironic, it seems, that there is such an enormous difference between the university's standards for work conducted by its own scholars and the standards applied to a professional journalist visiting the campus.† Regardless of the fact that the cameraman did overstep those bounds mandated by the Media Relations department, the university should never be authorized to sell studentsí privacy.
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