A Lesson in Journalism at the University of Missouri
NOV. 11, 2015
NOV. 11, 2015
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To the Editor:
Re “Missouri Professor Who Confronted Photographer Quits Journalism Post” (news article, Nov. 11):
As a former veteran journalist at ABC News, I was shocked at the actions of some students and even a professor at the University of Missouri concerning the presence of news media covering the protests about racial justice on campus.
Melissa Click, an assistant professor in the department of communication no less, had the audacity to call for “some muscle” to remove a photojournalist who was just doing his job in a public space. The professor, who under enormous criticism later apologized for her incendiary remarks, must have momentarily forgotten the First Amendment.
While I am sure the event was chaotic — as most protests that I have covered are — the actions by some at the university toward the news media were outrageous and fly in the face of what the heart of democratic debate is about, including a free press.
The incident reminds me of my days reporting on the unrest in South Africa when the white-minority government often did its best to interfere with our coverage about anti-apartheid events not to its liking. While no First Amendment existed in South Africa to protect foreign correspondents like me, the actions by some at the University of Missouri reflected the ugliness of what mob rule is about and what it can turn into at a moment’s notice.
While the professor who called for the “muscle” has now apologized to the journalists involved, it seems to me that such actions at a storied institution like Missouri should still be challenged and turned into a teaching moment. It is not only about the importance of what sparked the protest — racial justice — but it should also encompass what it means to respect freedom of the press. The lessons are critically important far beyond the gates of the University of Missouri.