An open letter from the Knight Chairs in Journalism

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

UNC 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