Saturday, February 17, 2007

When Interviewees Attack

On Canada’s City News, veteran reporter Peter Silverman found himself in a very bad situation when he was tapped to investigate Optician Adam Plimmer who on numerous occasions failed to provide customers with glasses that they had paid hundreds of dollars for.

Silverman was warned by the customers that Plimmer had a very bad temper and on Silverman’s first visit to the shop, he was sternly reprimanded by the optician and had the door slammed in his face.

A few days later, Silverman received a call from Plimmer apologizing and telling Silverman he could return to the store to speak with him on the matter. But in the message, Plimmer sounded highly unstable saying he has “become a new man” and has “witnessed the power of God” and also that he has “love in his heart” for Silverman.

Still Silverman returned to the shop and was unprepared for what happened next. Plimmer violently pushes the door open into 75-year-old Silverman, grabs the reporter’s notebook and smacks him with it, spits at him, picks up to doormat to swing at Silverman and even resorts to throwing snowballs at Silverman and the cameraman. All the while Plimmer is also yelling and shouting obscenities at Silverman. Eventually police and the SWAT team arrive to arrest Plimmer.

I was shocked by the footage but it also left me with many questions. What would I have done in that situation? Would I have returned to the shop even after that crazy message? Yes, I probably would, my job would most likely depend on it. And upon being attacked would it have been appropriate to hit back? I think the natural response would be to strike back but that could get the reporter in a whole lot of legal trouble.

As Anderson Cooper alludes to, Silverman got some flack for “putting his dukes up” but I think he handled the situation well, keeping himself in defense mode and not really striking back at Plimmer. (On a side note on some message boards posters report that Silverman was a boxer in his younger years). But should Silverman have stuck around for as long as he did? Plimmer was attacking him for some time before the police arrived. I guess he did the right thing; going away would be exactly what Plimmer wanted.

This also brings up the issue of the cameraman’s role. Should he continue filming as he does in this case, or should he come to the aid of the reporter who is being attacked? In this case I also think the cameraman did the right thing, by filming the incident, which is clear evidence of the attack and that Plimmer is unstable. In addition Silverman seems to be handling the situation well on his own. But in other situations, should the cameraman step in when the reporter is being attacked?



At Saturday, February 17, 2007, Anonymous cy said...

i definitely think silverman did the right thing in defending himself. i don't think journalists should get any flack for acting in self-defense. we're human beings too! and as for the cameraman, if silverman isn't being pummeled to death and plimmer isn't attacking him with a life-threatening weapon, then catching the entire incident on camera is a smart move. it can serve as undeniable proof that plimmer is the one doing the attacking.

At Sunday, February 18, 2007, Anonymous JE said...

I think the reporter stayed a little bit too long. I think he stayed just to get more footage of the crazy doctor. I think it was just to humiliate the dentist, not to further his story.


At Sunday, February 18, 2007, Anonymous VLD said...

WOW. So yes, the message was tinged with insanity, but I definitely would have gone back.

However, I think Silverman should have backed off immediately. It seems clear to me that he stuck around because he was not at all scared of the eye guy ... but in doing so, he was, if not taunting the guy, at least riling him up. And c'mon, the reverse tug-o'-war thing with the door? ESPECIALLY inappropriate.

I would have backed away and hurled my questions at him from a safe distance.


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