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NM journos win Emmy for story in which man tried to run them over

One of the advantages of my blog is that I get acquainted with quality people throughout the world, people who have never met me in person yet fully support my cause.

One of these people is Jeremy Jojola, an investigative reporter in New Mexico, one of my old stomping grounds.

Although w


One of the advantages of my blog is that I get acquainted with quality people throughout the world, people who have never met me in person yet fully support my cause.

One of these people is Jeremy Jojola, an investigative reporter in New Mexico, one of my old stomping grounds.

Although we didn’t know each other at the time, I was a reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News in southern New Mexico while Jeremy was studying journalism at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in 1999.

Fast forward to 2008 and Jeremy is now an Emmy Award winning investigative reporter for KOB-TV in Albuquerque.

Jojola (pictured left) and news videographer Jeremy Fine (right) won the award last weekend during the Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards Ceremony for their story on illegal dumping.

It was a routine story about how people dump their garbage in the desert outside Albuquerque, but it took an unnerving turn when the two journalists caught a man in the act of dumping.

jojola

The man ended up threatening their lives, trying to run them over and ramming his truck into their news van. Read the story and see the video here. Read the transcript of the interchange below.

Illegal Dumper: You turn that camera off me or I’m gonna run both of you over right now.

Jojola: Can I talk to you about something real quick?

Dumper: You put that camera down…oh that’s it….that’s it!

Jojola: Is this your property?

Dumper: You better run, buddy.

Jojola: Is this your property?

Dumper: You’d better run.

Jojola: Is this your property?

Dumper: You better run.

Jojola: We better run out of the way….

(Jojola/Fine run)

Jojola: Hey hey hey! You’re gonna hit our car! You just hold on there one second.

(dumper attempts to run over Jojola)

Jojola: Hold on, hold on…stop stop.

(man continues to drive erratically)

Jojola: Hold on hold on!

Jojola: Let me just move our car.

Dumper: Hey, Fuck you.

Jojola: Hey calm down—

Dumper: Fuck you.

Jojola: Let me move my car real quick.

Dumper: I’m gonna run that car over.

Jojola: Hold on.

Dumper: Get with it.

(Jojola starts car)

Jojola: Hold on…hey hey hey!

(Dumper rams news unit)

Jojola/Fine: (They say several explatives)

Jojola: We’re you rolling on that?

Fine: Yup, I got it.

Jojola: Fuck.

Fine: He’s coming again.

Jojola: Shit.

Jojola: Hold on. The airbags may go off, so just be careful.

Fine: Unbelievable

Jojola: did you get the impact of the car?

Fine: yeah I got it

Jojola: Let’s check out….

(Jojola fine get out to see front of news unit with bumper ripped off)

Jojola: I guess he didn’t want to talk.

Because Fine was able to capture the man’s license plate on camera, police ended up arresting him on five felony counts. He was identified as Eric Beyer, who has a lengthy arrest record dating back to 1985, according to Bernalillo County Court records.

The incident displays the importance and danger of using cameras in the journalistic line of duty. This is how Jojola explained it to me in an email:

If I didn’t have a camera, and approached this guy with a note pad alone, he probably wouldn’t haven’t flown off the handle. People see the camera as a very intrusive thing, especially when they are in the middle of getting caught doing something illegal. Certainly, this story wouldn’t have worked without the photography. You can’t gather evidence with a note pad….at least not for a story like this. The photographer’s excellent work provided the content for my story and also protected us. The video evidence is now being used against the illegal dumper in court.

It’s not like KOB-TV hasn’t seen its cameramen getting abused for doing their jobs. A few months ago, KOB-TV cameraman Tim Foley got arrested by an Albuquerque police officer, who has since been fired.

And in 2006, Jeremy Fine, who is pictured above next to Jojola, was detained by Albuerque police after filming the aftermath of a balloon crash.

I spent two years in New Mexico and I know there is a sense of lawlessness there that sometimes extends to the police departments (as if I should talk, being from Miami).

But New Mexico is the land where Billy the Kid escaped from jail two weeks before his execution by killing two guards. The land where Geronimo escaped from the American army by disappearing into a cave. The land which Pancho Villa invaded in 1916.

So there will probably always be an Old West lawlessness in New Mexico. But with that lawlessness comes dauntlessness which is what Jojola, Fine and Foley possess. The courage to not back down when confronted.

The best editor I’ve ever had was the late Harold Cousland at the Las Cruces Sun-News, an old-school journalistic throwback from the days of the smoke-filled newsrooms and whiskey-flask deadlines.

“You can’t win a battle with those who buy ink by the barrel.”

Those are the words Cousland would tell me when I would inform him that the Luna County Sheriff or the  Deming Police Chief or some Border Patrol or Customs Agent was pissed at one of my articles and was threatening to sue us.

“Let them waste their money,” he would say.

Cousland was soft-spoken but didn’t need to carry a big stick because he understood that the power of the written word was the power of truth. And this power is much greater when those words are combined with photos and/or video.

After leaving the Las Cruces Sun-News, I moved to larger newspapers, including the San Bernardino Sun in Southern California and The Arizona Repubulic in Phoenix. But I never met an editor as dauntless as  Cousland.

And that is why I remembered Cousland’s words when Judge Fernandez criticized me for blogging about my case. Perhaps Fernandez is not aware that you can’t win a battle with those who buy ink by the barrel.

Thanks to the Internet, I don’t even have to buy the ink anymore.

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