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Knight Chairs issue open letter on arrests and violence against journalists during protests demanding racial justice


Professors from 23 of the most important schools of journalism in the United States issued "an open letter regarding arrests and violence directed at journalists during the protests demanding racial justice" in this country on June 15.

"We want a nation where the next generation of journalists, the students we are now training, can do their jobs in a culture of respect for the First Amendment," the professors say. "We call on governors, mayors, state lawmakers, city councils, prosecutors, police chiefs and police union officials, to hold the perpetrators of all attacks against journalists to account, and to ensure such attacks stop immediately."

"As Americans have tried to come to terms with our history of racism, we condemn its presence in our profession and call for media outlets to diversify their staffs from the top down. We also note that journalists, including those of color, have been victims of police misconduct in recent days, and we are disturbed at the large number of attacks perpetrated on all those attempting to uphold a free press in the service of democracy," the letter says.

The Knight Chairs have been funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helping to bring professional journalists to the faculty of some of the best schools of journalism in the U.S. The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was founded by professor Rosental Alves, who holds the Knight Chair in International Journalism at UT's Moody College of Communication School of Journalism. He is one of the signatories of the open letter.

The following is the text of the letter signed by the Knight Chair holders:

"In recent weeks, the latest killings of African-Americans by law enforcement have not only anguished our country but locked its attention on police brutality directed at communities of color. As Americans have tried to come to terms with our history of racism, we condemn its presence in our profession and call for media outlets to diversify their staffs from the top down. We also note that journalists, including those of color, have been victims of police misconduct in recent days, and we are disturbed at the large number of attacks perpetrated on all those attempting to uphold a free press in the service of democracy.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, between May 26 and June 10, there were 86 physical attacks on journalists in the United States, 54 by police. More than 50 journalists were arrested, and there were scores of incidents in which reporters said they were hit with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. The numbers are so high that it defies logic to consider them isolated moments. They occurred in an environment that either is indifferent to, or condones, illegal intimidation and violence against the press.

As the Committee to Protect Journalists has noted, the journalists at these protests represent the interests of the same public that government also serves. Additionally, the press acts as a check both on government and on rogue behavior among private citizens, a check that is badly needed at this time and helps all people. We are especially aware of the challenges faced by journalists of color. Their jobs ask them to remain dispassionate in the face of attacks that are all-too personal to themselves and their loved ones.

We are journalism professors funded through the Knight Foundation who teach and mentor at public and private universities across the United States. We want a nation where the next generation of journalists, the students we are now training, can do their jobs in a culture of respect for the First Amendment. We call on governors, mayors, state lawmakers, city councils, prosecutors, police chiefs and police union officials, to hold the perpetrators of all attacks against journalists to account, and to ensure such attacks stop immediately.

We also ask colleagues at journalism programs across America to join us in these demands, and in encouraging professional media outlets, and the students we teach, to more thoroughly investigate the structural racism that permeates our society."

_ _ 

SIGNATORIES (listed alphabetically by name):

Penelope Muse Abernathy 
Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics
Hussman School of Journalism and Media 
University of North Carolina 
 
Bill Adair
Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy
Duke University
 
John Affleck 
Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society
Penn State University
 
Rosental Alves 
Knight Chair in International Journalism
University of Texas at Austin
 
Alberto Cairo
Knight Chair in Visual Journalism
University of Miami
 
Sarah Cohen
Knight Chair in Data Journalism
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Arizona State University 
 
Aly Colόn
Knight Chair of Media Ethics
Washington and Lee University
 
Eric Freedman
Knight Chair in Environmental Journalism
Michigan State University
 
Mark Goodman
Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism
Kent State University
 
Lindsay Grace
Knight Chair in Interactive Media
University of Miami School of Communication
 
Brant Houston 
Knight Chair, Investigative and Enterprise Reporting, 
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
 
Francine Huff
Knight Chair for Student Achievement
School of Journalism & Graphic Communication
Florida A&M University
 
Kathy Kiely
Lee Hills Chair in Free Press Studies
Missouri School of Journalism
 
Damon Kiesow
Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Production
Missouri School of Journalism
 
Mindy McAdams 
Knight Chair in Journalism Technologies and a Democratic Society​
University of Florida
 
Michael Pollan
Knight Chair in Science and Technology Reporting 
UC Berkeley School of Journalism
 
Dana Priest
Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland 
 
Sabriya Rice
Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism
University of Georgia
 
Giannina Segnini
Knight Chair in Data Journalism
Director of the Data Journalism Degree
Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University 
 
Jodi Upton
Knight Chair, Data and Explanatory Journalism
Syracuse University
 
Diane Winston
Knight Chair in Media and Religion
USC Annenberg
 
Stephen Wolgast 
Knight Chair in Audience & Community Engagement for News
University of Kansas
 
Owen R. Youngman
Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy 
Northwestern University Medill School

 

CONTACT: John Affleck, jra14@psu.edu




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