Since Friday evening, a new Twitter account has caught the attention of people closely following Portland's nightly protests: @Clypian. It's the account for the South Salem High School newspaper, the Clypian, and it's currently being run by the paper's editor-in-chief, Eddy Binford-Ross.
Binford-Ross, 17, has quickly become one of the most prolific reporters covering protests on the ground in Portland—capturing everything from tear gas blanketing crowds of protesters to the bright yellow Wall of Moms chanting in unison. The Mercury caught up with Binford-Ross Wednesday afternoon—in between phone interviews with the Washington Post and power naps—to hear what's brought her journalistic prowess to the streets Portland.
MERCURY: So tell me about the Clypian. How long have you been working there? How does it operate?
BINFORD-ROSS: I started with the Clypian as a reporter the second semester of freshman year. I became the news editor my sophomore year, and last year I became editor-in-chief. The newspaper is a class in school, but it’s completely student run. We have an advisor, who makes sure everything we do is legal, But he doesn’t have any say over our editorial decisions. We have photographers, writers, editors, podcasters, people who run our social media pages… it’s a full staff.
What interested you in getting involved in the paper in the first place?
I’ve always been interested in current events and public affairs and I always love knowing what’s going on.
What kind of stories have you reported on in the past?
I’ve covered legislative and local government news. And feature stories about students, I really like those.
Do you normally work over the summer?
Well, it’s a tradition that editors keep writing stuff during the summer, and reporters can if they want. So yes. But this is way, way more work than usual. (Laughs) I mean, just this morning I signed a declaration to be part of that ACLU lawsuit!
How long have you been covering these protests?
I’ve been covering Salem protests since the beginning (early June). I went up to Portland one time to check it out, probably in mid-June. And then I came back last Friday [July 17].
How many nights have you been out reporting since?
What was that first Portland visit like for you, compared to Salem protest coverage?
It’s so interesting because all these things build on each other. In Salem I got tear gassed, yes, but I never feared for my safety as a journalist. The Salem police were always very respectful to me as a journalist. They didn’t go around arresting journalists, like here. At those protests, anytime I identified myself as press, they were like, “Great, can you just stand off to the side a little so you don’t get hurt?’”
Coming up to Portland [in mid-June] and not having that kind of response was crazy. It was crazy to have an officer point a munitions gun at me when I'm standing off to the side. It was crazy to have them run at me with batons raised. But all of that pales in comparison to Friday night. Friday, the federal response seemed completely without warning, completely unprovoked. It was like, “Oh my god, they might actually do something to me.”
What inspired you to come back up to Portland to report on Friday?
This is an unprecedented moment in our history. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. I think it’s so, so important that people are out there getting information to the community, and giving them the tools they need to follow along with what’s going on on the ground. Before all of this, most of my followers were just in Salem, so I thought my reporting would give people from Salem an insight from what is happening in Portland.
What’s your technique for covering these protests? I know it can be a lot to churn out night after night.
When I'm on the ground, one of the Clypian editors usually puts together an outline of a story based on my tweets. That helps me write it later.
What I always try to do is write stories that are a play-by-play of events. People want to know the details of what’s happening. It’s an incredibly nuanced situation, especially if you look at it from night to night. So I think the details are incredibly important.
Aside from the way police treat journalists, what’s different about these protests than the ones you attended in Salem?
These protesters seem a lot more organized than in Salem. They've got a better strategy, and that came through [Tuesday] night. It was so crazy to see this line of protesters pushing the federal line back. And the tear gas didn’t even stop them! I was amazed.
Do you go to the front lines when you’re reporting? Where do you usually position yourself in the crowd once police start getting involved?
I usually stand by the police line, along the side. I stand off to the side a little because I don’t want to be shot.
Have you been shot?
Not really, I mean, I’ve had three stun grenades thrown towards me as I’ve stood to the side. On Tuesday night, when [protesters] lit a fire in the [federal courthouse] portico, I was standing up against the courthouse wall filming when I heard officers running out so I moved out of the way and put my hands up. I was pushed, and then an officer shoved me into the wall. My mom was also knocked down by officers.
Wait, your mom? Does she come with you to protests?
Oh yeah, my parents wouldn’t let me come up here by myself. That was the rule. So, the first two nights my dad came with me, and the last three my mom did.
How are they liking it? Have they experienced anything like this before?
I found out that my dad has been tear gassed before, because when we were tear gassed he was like, “This is the worst tear gas I’ve ever felt.”
What do you wear when you’re out? Do you have protective gear?
Yeah, I have a helmet and goggles. It’s hard because I wear glasses, and really need them to see. I’ve settled on putting my glasses on over a pair of swim goggles. We’ve been looking for masks, but they’re sold out everywhere here. A family friend has some respirators that I think we’re going to borrow.
Are you staying somewhere up here right now while you cover the demonstrations?
No, we’ve been driving back and forth to Salem every night.
Wow, that’s got to be exhausting. How long do you plan on doing this?
We’re playing it by ear. I don’t have any plans to stop. My parents are fine with it, I think. I think it’s super important because this is an extremely volatile situation. There’s a possibility that it could turn bad. I think it’s important to contribute to the historical record by being here.
Is your plan to go into journalism, as a career? Has this work changed that at all?
Before the protests it was like, “I might do this for a career,” but I wasn’t sure. And now I’m definitely more seriously considering this as my future. I feel like it’s incredibly important work. I think I’ve always been a naturally curious person, this kind of feeds into my curiosity.