Patricia Gallagher Newberry served on Miami University Faculty since 1997 talks about George Floyd death impact on news coverage

BLOG POST:  Patricia Gallagher Newberry, President, Society of Professional Journalists

LOVELAND, OH (June 9, 2020) – As a member in good standing of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), I wanted to share this blog post from SPJ President Patricia Gallagher Newberry, who also contiues to serve as a faculty member and media advisor at Miami University. It is an honor and a privilege to serve our community with the highest standard of journalistic integrity. I also believe it is worth sharing the effort members of the working media make to bring you the stories that make a difference here at home and beyond. Here is a view from a leader in journalism today: 

Patricia Gallagher Newberry, President, Society of Professional Journalists (Provided)

And now: #GeorgeFloyd

Last week, at this time, SPJ and all of journalism was laser-focused on COVID-19 and the loss of 100,000 lives.

Then a man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis, and SPJ once again pivoted with the world of journalism.

In the past week, we’ve devoted considerable energy on two fronts: pointing journalists to resources to help their coverage of Floyd-related events and defending – loudly and frequently – their right to cover the story without harassment and harm.

If you’ve been on Twitter – and who hasn’t? – you know that journalists around the country have been attacked or threatened by police and protesters as they’ve covered the unleashing of national pain over yet-another police-involved shooting of a black man.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez and two colleagues were arrested in Minneapolis early last Friday and released after about an hour. (Provided)

From coast to coast, journalists reported being doused with tear gas, pepper spray or paint balls; returning to news vehicles marked with graffiti; facing arrest or the threat of it.


In all, journalists have reported 233 “press freedom incidents” while covering Floyd news, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

The site, created by the Committee to Protect Journalists and supported by SPJ and multiple other partner groups – has been updating the list daily on Twitter. June 3rd update showed:

  • 41 arrests/detainments.
  • 153 assaults — 125 by police, 27 by others.
  • 39 equipment/newsroom damage.
  • 53 physical assaults, 33 by police.
  • 35 tear gassings.
  • 21 pepper sprayings.
  • 55 rubber bullet/projectiles.

These attacks are unjustified.  Journalists are doing their jobs, for their communities, as allowed by the First Amendment. They are literally putting their lives on the line — in the midst of a pandemic, from understaffed newsrooms, in the face of daily denigration from a press-hating president.

If you are among the journalists harmed in any way as you’ve covered this most critical story, please know that we at SPJ stand with you and for you:

  • Last Friday, we asked the Minnesota State Patrol to explain why it arrested the CNN journalists.
  • On Saturday, we released an open letter to police officers and protesters. We offered our empathy for their roles – but implored them to treat journalists with the same respect and dignity they expect.
  • We then joined more than 100 other pro-press groups in a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, decrying attacks on journalists and calling for Minnesota authorities to clean up their act.
  • We were also among 29 signers of a National Press Club letter to law enforcement nationwide, asking them “to halt the deliberate and devastating targeting of journalists in the field.”
  • We’ve also put a tremendous number of helpful resources in front of members and non-members alike, through our Journalist Toolbox site. Toolbox founder/editor and SPJ Board Member Mike Reilley has been updating the “covering protests” page frequently – with info about how to estimate crowd sizes, what to do if your phone is seized, whether you are free to take photos and videos in public places and much, much more.
  • Speaking of your right to work in public spaces, Ethics Committee Chair Lynn Walsh has been fielding calls on that. Her take: “The answer is not to stop recording, reporting or taking photos.”             
  • Finally, we appreciate all of you – whether covering #GeorgeFloyd news, returning to COVID-19 stories, or tracking everyday stories of the newsmakers and news events in your communities.

Stay safe out there.