A lot of viewers have reached out to us via Facebook and email asking why we are covering Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida.
I’ve thought a lot about this question. I’ve asked myself the same thing.
We all remember the images from Charlottesville, which was a Richard Spencer rally too. I couldn’t help but think: That’s not who we are. That’s not who we are as Americans. I remember my 6-year-old daughter commenting that the tiki torch march looked like the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” You know, when the angry townsmen stormed the castle?
Yes, part of the beauty of this wonderful country is our freedom of speech-- even if it’s a message many disagree with. In my newsroom, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the responsibility we have as journalists. We don’t want to fuel the flames. We aren’t the story. We don’t want to provide a platform for hate.
With that said, I also believe that knowledge is power. As a country we can’t come together without knowing what’s separating us.
We will cover the events in Gainesville. We will not show Spencer’s speech live. We will provide context. Our coverage will be dictated by the events. We are sending multiple crews but I hope we never have to even see them. We will keep you informed on all platforms, but promise to bring you coverage that’s both thought provoking and responsible.
The cost of security for this event has already topped half a million dollars. The Governor has declared a State of Emergency. Many of our viewers children are enrolled at UF and that is why we’ve deemed the events surrounding the speech newsworthy.
I pray that the events on Thursday will be peaceful. But whatever happens, we will report the news responsibly, and transparently.
Meagan Harris is the News Director at First Coast News