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RTDNA: Newsrooms Face a Dangerous Year in Journalism


Radio Television Digital News Association
Radio Television Digital News Association

During the past year, the job of seeking and reporting the truth became increasingly dangerous. Journalists were threatened, assaulted and arrested at an alarming rate while on the job. In a report, Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) found unprecedented levels of verbal and physical violence at the hands of civilians, police and the leaders that journalists are meant to hold accountable.

Every year, RTDNA releases data from a survey of broadcast newsrooms from across the country. This year, for the first time in its history, the report compiled by the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University included a section on media safety. Its research team wanted to understand how repeated, targeted acts of violence have impacted newsrooms across the country.

The responses were alarming. One in five television news directors reported attacks on employees. 86% of news directors changed newsroom procedures to protect employees. They purchased bullet-proof vests and gas masks and more often sent security teams with reporters.

RTNDA says this data makes clear a reality that many journalists have already recognized -- journalists are under attack. "It's a journalist's constitutionally protected duty to serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth, but this protection alone has proven inadequate. The proof is in the numbers. It is time for Congress to act."

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement, "Broadcast journalists play an essential role in documenting pivotal moments in American history from the front lines. That has never been more important than during the past year. NAB is gravely troubled by this study reporting the unprecedented level of harassment, intimidation and violence directed at journalists covering the historical events of 2020. These unacceptable attacks on our nation's free press undermine our very democracy by preventing journalists' ability to report the facts and keep the public informed. We are grateful to the dedicated broadcast journalists bringing the truth to Americans during these dangerous times."

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