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.
Each month, this newsletter opens with a snapshot of categories from our home page. This is what you saw on the last day of July:
And this is what our home page looked like at the end of August:
We’ve just surpassed three months of nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, who was killed by Minneapolis police while in custody at the end of May. More than 740 press freedom aggressions from #BlackLivesMatter protests across the nation have since been reported to the Tracker. Each month I come here and tell you how it’s going, and now it’s your chance to hear from… you. Here are reader questions* asked and answered:
You talk about this huge number of reported incidents, yet the website doesn’t show as many as you say there are. What’s up with that?
Great question. For the first time in our history, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker released reported incidents on social media. We organized for the public what was being shared with us — through our own social media, from our partners and through our tips submission portal. Because of these numbers, press safety and press freedoms have continued to be part of the national conversation.
In releasing those raw numbers, we’ve highlighted they are “reported” and not final. What you see on the website and at the Press Freedom in Crisis page is a smaller number because we’ve stuck by our editorial process of independently verifying each event — including seeking comment from law enforcement where applicable — before publication. Eventually the numbers will be closer, or as close as we can verify.
OK, that makes sense. But you still seem so far behind — can you go any faster ?
The Tracker team is a full-time staff of two journalists (and you’re talking to one of them right now). Over a span of 5 days this summer (May 26-June 2) we received more reported aggressions against journalists than we documented in the site’s entire 3-year history.
Thanks to great internal organizational support from Freedom of the Press Foundation, founding partner Committee to Protect Journalists and that liquid gold we all know as coffee, we’ve built up an incredible team of freelance reporters and editors who are helping with the backlog. To date, we’ve published more than 40% of incidents reported to us.
That’s more than a percentage, though. That’s logging for the permanent record what has happened to hundreds of journalists as they’ve been arrested, beaten with police batons, permanently disfigured, attacked by individuals and bore witness as their newsrooms were destroyed. Many of our reports include first-hand accounts from the journalists themselves. It’s worth the time it is taking.
So… can you go any faster ?
Donate directly to the Tracker. We are currently seeking funding to expand our staff to handle the enormous influx of cases. Any support you can give will go a long way in helping to make sure we can keep getting verified information to the public as fast as possible.
I’ve read a lot about livestreamers and independent journalists. How do you determine whom you are going to count ?
The Tracker has used the same broad definition of a journalist since its launch in 2017:
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker adopts a functional definition of who is a journalist. It doesn’t matter whether the individual has a press pass or went to journalism school, whether they work for The New York Times or work for themselves. What matters is whether the person was performing an act of journalism. The Tracker will count journalists whose rights to gather and disseminate information were violated in the course of their work or as a result of their work.
(Read our FAQ page for the full outline and more.)
Even though the scope — 76 cities — and scale — more than 740 aggressions — is unlike anything we’ve seen before, the parameters remain the same.
If you have more questions, find me here: kirstin[at]freedom.press or on Twitter, @TrackerKK where my entire raison d’etre is to pop my head up like a groundhog and drop context and perspective:
*These questions have come to me in some form over the past few months. I’ve edited to include salty language.
On Aug. 26, FPF’s Trevor Timm and Ryan Rice recognized three months of press aggressions with stunning visual charts (the first assault of a journalist was reported to the Tracker the day after Floyd died).
Finally, I’d be remiss to let August close without recognizing the Tracker’s own milestone. When launched three years ago — on Aug. 2, 2017 — the work done by a coalition of press freedom advocates may not have known exactly what was ahead, but they knew this project was important.
Cheers — and all the cake — to those who continue to support it.
Managing Editor, U.S. Press Freedom Tracker