Last month we told you about a group of anarchists who vandalized the house and vehicle of veteran Olympian photojournalist Tony Overman. The as-yet-unidentified vandals spray-painted the word "snitch" on the photog's truck, sprayed an anarchist symbol on his garage, and slashed his truck's tires. The "snitch" reference was supposedly because Overman had shared photographs he took of anarchists breaking the law with police--an accusation Overman vehemently denied.
Turns out it was Overman who wasn't telling the truth.
In an editorial written by Olympian Managing Editor Jerry Wakefield on Sunday, the paper notes that in the course of reporting on a front-page feature story on regional anarchists, reporter Sean Robinson discovered that Overman had indeed shared photos with police prior to publication--an action that's in direct opposition to the paper's policy on withholding unpublished images.
In the aftermath of violent acts by protest marchers in 2008 and 2010 in downtown Olympia, we stated repeatedly that neither The Olympian nor Tony Overman, our photographer who covered the protests, ever supplied unpublished photos of protesters to police.
That's not true. We regret that we misled our readers.
In the first incident, which happened on May 1, 2008, in the seconds after Overman took a photo of a black-garbed 20-year-old named Daniel Wilson who was in the process of throwing a rock through Bank of America's window in downtown Olympia, a security guard and a police officer ran to Overman with a request.
In his feature story, Robinson reports the details in full.
A crime is coming. Tony Overman, veteran photographer for The Olympian, senses the moment and squeezes off a frame. The image will be published the following day.
A split second later, Wilson hurls his rock. Two other anarchists follow suit. The rocks shatter glass and land in the lobby.
Alarms. Adrenaline. The street goes crazy.
The burly man in uniform, a security guard for the bank, rushes to Overman.
"Did you see who did this?" the guard asks.
"Yeah," Overman says.
His camera holds the frozen image of Wilson. Overman, caught up in the chaos, does something he's never done before.
He shows the frame, not yet published, to the security guard. A police officer hustles up. Overman shows the photo again: Daniel Wilson and his striped shoes.
"The problem that I'm wrestling with is that I did the right thing as a citizen and I did the wrong thing as a journalist," Overman recently reflected.
Wilson was subsequently arrested. And after fleeing the country for some time, he returned and spent 150 days in jail.
In the other incident, Overman was attacked in 2010 by an anarchist named Jami Williams, who spray-painted his camera and his face while he was covering a police-brutality protest.
In that case police asked Overman if he would share the photo of the woman spraying him, being that he was the victim of an assault. He did and the woman was arrested.
In both cases, the photos that were shown to police were published in the newspaper later. But it was showing the pics to police before publication, and therefore inserting himself into the story, that was a violation of newspaper policy.
Wakefield writes that Overman will keep his job, but will be "disciplined" for "violating trust of readers," though he doesn't say what that discipline will be.
The development in no way justifies the moronic anarchists who vandalized Overman's house and truck. And it only barely scratches the record of one of the most decorated and respected photojournalists in the region.
And frankly (at least in the second case), a strong argument can be made that because Overman himself was attacked (thus becoming a part of the story by default), he had every right to show police the photos he'd taken of his attacker.
But as is the case with every scandal big and small, it's not the crime but the cover-up that makes it so bad.