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Thoughts from a former reporter: Greg Gianforte scandal

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There’s no denying the job of a reporter is challenging and sometimes, a dangerous one. Every day they get up, go to work and never know what story they’ll be sent to, but for one political reporter in Montana, he could have never predicted the way his day would go.

Greg Gianforte body slams a reporter

On Wednesday, May 24, political reporter for The Guardian, Ben Jacobs was covering a political event for Greg Gianforte, a then candidate for Montana’s congressional seat, when he was suddenly attacked. Jacobs was asking Gianforte a question about the Republican health care plan when the candidate allegedly “body-slammed” the reporter to the ground, and according to audio reports broke his glasses. Gianforte is now being charged with misdemeanor assault, but despite the charge, he won the election.


For me, this story hits a nerve, since I spent more than six years as a journalist, and only recently entered the PR world. Now having been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, I can tell you there is no justification for this candidate’s actions.


First off, that reporter was asking tough questions, but that is his job. If he didn’t ask questions of candidates, he wouldn’t be telling the public critical information they need to know in order to make a conscious and educated political decision. He has every right to ask tough questions without being sworn at and “body-slammed” to the ground.


I can tell you in the “field,” it’s not possible to prepare for the situations you’ll encounter. I myself have been in some pretty scary predicaments, but I can tell you that campaign events have always been a place I felt safe.


However, there is etiquette a reporter is supposed to follow and from reports from The Guardian, Jacobs attempted to enter in on a one-on-one interview Gianforte was having with another reporter. That type of behavior comes across as rude. Jacobs should have waited his turn or at least caught Gianforte after the interview, if it was indeed an exclusive between the candidate and this other reporter, however that still does not excuse Gianforte’s violent actions.


Media events are supposed to be controlled environments, where the person addressing the media has a chance to tell their side of the story, and the media has a chance to openly and candidly ask questions. There’s a trust between public relations professionals and reporters at those events, but in this case that trust was lost and a reporter was attacked and now the PR team is dealing with a nightmare.

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