U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Our December 2020 Newsletter

Go to archived editions Sign up to the Newsletter
Published On
December 1, 2020
— REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Friends of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker:

Welcome back to your monthly newsletter around press freedom violations in the United States. Get this newsletter direct in your inbox by signing up here.

It’s also #GivingTuesday and #BitcoinTuesday and #DoesItMatterTheDayofTheWeekYourSupportMeansEverythingToUs. As the year comes to a close, we ask that you support the ongoing work of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker with a donation.

Each month, this newsletter opens with a snapshot of categories from our home page. This is what you saw on the last day of October:

U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

And this is what our home page looks like at the end of November:

U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

November’s newsletter published the day before Election Day. That turned into election week+, and as protests sprang up — “count the votes!” “stop the count!” — so, too, did journalists to cover such assemblies.

We’re now working to verify and publish the more than 60 election-related press freedom violations reported to us. That includes at least 20 assaults of journalists and more than a dozen arrests. Find them all, tagged Election2020, on this special page:

U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
— U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

That catalogue starts on Oct. 31. On the West Coast, a journalist was assaulted, his equipment damaged in Beverly Hills, and on the eastern seaboard, a march to the open polls in Graham, North Carolina, ended in chaos. The march stopped at the courthouse for a moment of silence for the death of George Floyd and ended with one journalist arrested and another assaulted (her equipment also damaged). At least 11 journalists were also caught in tear gas.

Courtesy Anthony Crider

The News & Observer photojournalist Julia Wall reaches for aide after coming into contact with tear gas during a North Carolina March to the Polls event.

— Courtesy Anthony Crider

The ‘Firehose of Grim News’

In a recent newsletter from Columbia Journalism Review (The Media Today, which I speed read each morning as I start my work day, along with CNN’s Reliable Sources), Jon Allsop spoke of the emotional toll of consuming this type of news on a daily basis. He wrote: “...I’ve had to inhale an unrelenting firehose of grim news and process it into something resembling coherent, proportionate analysis.”

Similarly, when Ed Yong, whose work in The Atlantic I wait for like kids wait for snow days, spoke at the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate gala, he said of reporting and publishing more than a dozen feature-length pieces about the pandemic this year: “I am tired in my bones.”

As of now, more than 960 press freedom violations have been reported to us since May. I come to you each month here and outline how truly staggering that number is. This final newsletter of the calendar year is no exception. Nor, it seems, is that feeling in my bones.

Closing 2020

You’ll see at least one more communiqué from me this year. We’re soon publishing an in-depth analysis of the incredible number of arrests of journalists in 2020. As of today, more than 140 detainments and arrests — more than double the entire history of the Tracker — have been reported to us. Those numbers are so overwhelming that we’ll be working on verifying and publishing them well into next year. But what we can do this year is put those into context for you. Keep a lookout for that, and share widely when it arrives.

Until then, please stay safe and healthy. And please don’t forget to donate to support our work. Thank you.


Kirstin McCudden
Managing Editor, U.S. Press Freedom Tracker