About forty protesters came to the San Diego headquarters of One America News Network in San Diego, on June 13, 2020. The station launched in 2013, and the founder is Robert Herring, Sr. This protest is happening in the midst of the nationwide protests for Black Lives Matter. The protesters were led by John Brunelle, who leads a new group called Working for Justice San Diego. The trigger for the protest was the coverage of OANN of events in Buffalo New York. This is when the police shoved Martin Gugino to the ground.
OANN ran a story where they said that this was self-defense on the part of the officers. They also claimed that Gugino was a member of Antifa, and was there to cause trouble. The story ran soon after the event happened, and it was retweeted by the president. This goes beyond just getting retweets. The president has called on OAN reporters often in the White House, and there are rumors that his son wants to buy a stake in the network. Then there have been denials as well.
According to Brunelle: “One America News is here in San Diego, and we know they don’t represent San Diego’s ideals particularly well.” He added, “what really brought us out are all these current protests that are going on about all the injustices on police brutality.”
He went on to tell us that these “have shined a light on other injustices like misreporting of the protests. And in particular the misreporting of the attack on Martin Gugino in Buffalo by the police when he was knocked down and hit his head.” Brunelle added that Gugino has a traumatic head injury. “This network decided to run a slander piece, and potentially made up stories about how he is potentially Antifa and that he is an agent provocateur.”
This was the final straw for Brunelle who organized this protest. We did not stay for the full three hours, and by the time we left, they had about forty people and three dogs attend the event. This is about half the people that showed interest on Facebook.
At one point Robert Herring came out. He gave a statement to Channel 8, and then had a conversation with the protesters. During his exchange, he defended the station’s coverage of Buffalo. He was challenged by protesters “Prove he (Gugino) was Antifa.”
He told them, “you will never be satisfied,” and added, “you guys should start watching the real news.” He was told by one of the voices in the crowd that he could not prove it either. His answer was “all you have to prove is that what we put out there is wrong.” This brings me to journalistic standards. From the Society for Professional Journalist code of ethics, Journalists have to: “– take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”
The public relies on us to do our job. It should not be up to the public to check on the accuracy of the media. But there are media outlets, to be fair on both sides, that don’t take that part of the job seriously. This is bringing distrust on multiple media outlets, which comes with the fracturing of Amerian society. People are choosing media outlets that fit closely with their world view, not necessarily those that try to bring accurate stories to the forefront.
However, we also had another side conversation with a protester. She mentioned that we need to have laws to limit the lies of outfits like OANN. The First Amendment allows OANN to operate freely in this country. The government is not the one that should set those standards. It is not their job, and if they ever did this, we could be in real trouble. Another raised the Fairness Doctrine, and that was the beginning of the fracturing of American media as well. The doctrine required that the media give a platform to more than one voice, and kept things in balance. It required licensed broadcasters to give a platform to opposing points of view. In the age of Cable, that requirement would not go well, since CNN and FOX, as well as OANN, are not going over the public airwaves. So while the public is not responsible for the material we produce, it is a good thing that many people are asking questions.
OANN had armed guards, reportedly ten of them, to keep the property safe. We saw four, and two were armed. San Diego Police had two marked squad cars watching and a supervisor came at one point in an unmarked vehicle. Reportedly there were ten armed guards on the property. The memo was leaked and was obtained by multiple media outlets. We received a copy from the organizers.
Of note, except for the crowing to have that exchange with Herring, the crowd remained socially distanced and all wore masks.