John Curley Center for Sports Journalism

An Open Letter

I am one of more than 20 journalism professors across the country who are funded by the Knight Foundation. Lately, we have been discussing our reaction to the treatment of journalists at the racial injustice protests, and we decided to release an open letter, which is reprinted below.
John Affleck



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