A boy plays basketball after school with the Police Athletic League.The newspaper I work for, dailypennsylvanian.com has moved more and more into shooting video, but one thorny issue keeps coming up, and that’s. People always seem at least a little leery about being interviewed or being on video camera, even if they have no qualms about talking to a reporter who is taking notes, or having their picture taken by a photographer. But bring up the topic of video, and it’s a whole other story, both for the subjects and for leery PR people.

Take as an example, this feature article written by Mara Wishingrad about the Police Athletic League, an after school program for kids in West Philadelphia. I was the photographer/hopeful videographer for the story, and together we were driven down to the Alexander Wilson School by a very cooperative Penn Police.

It’s a great scene there. It’s a big gym with kids of all ages playing basketball together or sitting and talking on the side, with a very friendly police officer named Cassandra Parks-DeVaughn watching over all of them. She has a great rapport with the kids, they all call her “Miss Cassandra” and this is the kind of heart warming story that the Penn Police loves to see us writing. And it is a good story that could make for a great video. Combine some shots of the kids playing basketball, with an interview with Officer , and some of the little kids. It’s a great angle to tell the story from, and personally, I think it works much better in video than it does in print.

“Miss Cassandra” is okay with it, the kids would love it, but as I set up the equipment the PR person from Penn Police who’s with us, goes and makes a phone call to ask about video and comes down and tells me that I’m only allowed to shoot still photos, and no video. The reason she gives is that they’re unsure if the kids have permission to appear in video.

Courts have held that the first amendment right of reporters to interview, photograph, record and otherwise do journalism in public without consent forms of any kind. A cursory search I did didn’t turn up any sort of legal distinction between video and photo, so while I’m not a legal expert it seems that if we had the right to photograph them, we would also have had the right to record them. Unfortunately, even if there is no legal distinction, there is a strong distinction in people’s minds.

I guess online video is just too new of a medium and PR departments automatically consider it a threat. But here, everybody lost out on the chance for a great story.