5 Tips for Covering Conflict at the 2017 Inauguration

Athens, GA (January 17, 2017) –With the Presidential Inaugural only three days away, journalists from all over the world are expected in Washington to cover the festivities as well as the anticipated protests.

In preparation for the conventions, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher has several tips for dealing with law enforcement and protesters in an effort to avoid altercations and to keep journalists safe.


It is imperative that journalists are aware of their rights and the protections available to them when entering a possibly dangerous or hostile environment. NPPA has a wealth of knowledge and advocacy options for member visual journalists. See: First Amendment Issues in Public Spaces Symposium Takeaway and Practical Advice about Covering High Conflict News and Before You Fly Reminds UAS Users to Check for Flight Restrictions during the Presidential Inauguration 

Information about press credentials and visual journalist rights can be found on the NPPA advocacy page. NPPA will also be coordinating with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press who operate a First Amendment rights hotline at (800) 336-4243.


One of the important aspects of covering high-stress events like the Presidential Inaugural is being aware of your surroundings and having an exit plan in case the situation becomes hostile. Be aware of exits and the areas that press is allowed to enter, as well as the location of nearby police officers in case of an altercation with protesters.

An effective way to increase situational awareness is to work in pairs with other journalists.

"It's really a good idea to work with somebody else so they can watch your back,” Osterreicher said.

He also suggests that, in the event that the situation takes a turn for the worse, journalists should move toward the nearest police officer under the assumption that they could protect you from hostile or violent protesters.


If crowds become hostile, the last thing a journalist wants is to be mistaken for an instigator, which could lead to physical harm or arrest. To set yourself apart from protesters and other attendees at the conventions, make sure to openly display press credentials and dress in a professional manner, Osterreicher said.


“The first reaction to a police officer approaching is often to take this defensive posture, and that could be construed badly,” Osterreicher said. Even in a stressful environment, Osterreicher urges journalists to maintain a polite, calm, and professional attitude to diffuse any possible hostility.


In the case of an arrest, all personal belongings are confiscated by law enforcement, so it is wise to have important information and phone numbers written in permanent ink somewhere on your body so that it is available even after arrest.

Further, Osterreicher advises that having audio and video equipment in your toolset, regardless of the medium you work in. It can be important because any material recorded during an altercation or arrest may act as evidence for your defense.

Making sure you are equipped for the worst case may help in the aftermath of a hostile encounter with police, protesters and the general public.