Journalism at a time of social upheaval

Thursday, June 4, 2020

We are living at a deeply troubling time for our country. As human beings, we grieve for the stolen lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other African Americans and people of color around the country who have been killed in senseless acts of police brutality. We recognize this is just the latest chapter of an ongoing story of white supremacy and oppression that started more than 500 years ago on this continent.

Now, at this moment of eruption, uprising and increasing repression -- all during an unprecedented pandemic -- many of us find ourselves at a difficult crossroads. Should we join the protesters in the streets demanding justice? Should we grab our camera gear and notebooks and report on these historic events? Or should we stay home, protecting our health and that of our loved ones?

These can be difficult decisions and we want you to know that we support your choices, whatever they may be.

Over the past few days, we have seen journalists teargassed, shot with rubber bullets, assaulted, detained and arrested for simply doing their jobs. Since May 26, more than 250 press freedom violations against journalists covering demonstrations around the country have been collected by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. We decry these attempts to stifle our voices. As a journalism department, we support the First Amendment rights of protesters to gather and speak out and the rights of journalists to cover their stories. Journalism plays a vital role in a functioning democracy -- to report on what’s happening and put the day’s events into context. We applaud both activists and journalists for bringing these important truths to the public’s eye.

We hope that the events of recent weeks, built on the struggles of the past few hundred years, will help our country face its history of racism and oppression and that we will find a path forward to a more just and equitable future.

For those of you reporting on these events, here are some resources you may find helpful:

         o 23 guidelines for journalists to safely cover protests

         o How Journalists Can Take Care of Themselves While Covering Trauma

         o Know Your Rights (for covering protests)

         o Student journalist resources for covering protests safely and sensitively

         o COVID-19 Resources

        o A legal hotline at 1-800-336-4243 or to reach attorneys

        o RCFP’s in-depth guide to Police, Protesters and the Press

        o How to Protect Yourself When Covering A Protest Tip Sheet

        o Mental Health Resources and Tips for Journalists

        o Tips for reporting on anti-police violence protests in the U.S.

        o Resource guide: COVID-19, covering protests

        o Critical Stress Help Sheet

       o Covering protests and civil unrest

       o Diversity resources

       o Fault Lines, a framework that enhances source diversity and improves framing

       o First Amendment and free speech resources

       o SPJ Code of Ethics provides guidance on reporting and covering stories accurately, fairly and thoroughly.

       o SPJ’s Ethics Hotline is available for journalists facing ethical dilemmas while reporting.

       o SPJ Legal Defense Fund, which can be tapped when journalists need legal or direct financial assistance.

We are grateful to students and alumni who are covering these extraordinary events.


Rachele Kanigel, chair, and faculty of the Journalism Department, San Francisco State University