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When Reporters Are Attacked

Hard news has taken on a whole new meaning of late. Last week, local television reporter John Mattes was added to the list of reporters getting beaten up in the line of duty. He was battered on camera while working on an investigative piece about a real estate scheme.

Mattes, reporting for Fox outlet XETV San Diego, was left bloodied and beaten after a subject and his accomplice expressed their extreme displeasure with his story. The video, which will long live on Youtube, shows Mattes getting slapped, punched, eye-gouged, bitten and body-slammed by a roughneck named Sam Suleiman.

Mattes might have appreciated a little help from cameraman Dennis Waldrop. But in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, he defends his lensman, who kept his camera on Mattes throughout the beating.

"It would have been inappropriate for him to drop the camera and run to my aid," Mattes said. "And God bless him that he documented what happened to me because it would have been a he-said, she-said. It could have been a lot worse."

Indeed. A quick search of various Internet video sites shows reporters getting stung by bees, attacked by dogs and pummeled mercilessly with snowballs by children on a snow-covered street. In one live shot this summer from a station in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., a WJXT reporter is knocked upside the head with a purse by a drunk.

The Committee to Protect Journalists doesn’t officially track such incidents in the U.S., but the group does at least keep a watchful eye on them.

"We did take note of [the XETV incident], but in this case, the perpetrators were promptly arrested," says a spokesperson. "So the system functioned."