It’s been a year of renaissance for RTDNA, as Executive Director Dan Shelley, celebrating one year of service in the role this month, says. The association has grown our most used, longstanding resources, issuing new coverage guidelines for a variety of ethics scenarios and reporting in our annual research that TV news employment has surpassed that of newspapers for the first time.
We also grew our office team with the addition of Tara Puckey as the association’s first Director of Strategic Initiatives.
And we’ve redoubled our work with new efforts focusing around our three pillars: Defending press freedom, recognizing outstanding responsible journalism and providing journalists professional development.
This growth is reflected in strong financial and membership numbers, too, the association currently standing at more than 1330 individual members and 11 corporate members, nearly 6% growth in membership over a year ago.
Voice of the First Amendment Task Force
Promoting and protecting responsible journalism and the First Amendment
Since September 2017, RTDNA and the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force, under new Executive Director Dan Shelley, have monitored more than 150 threats to journalists’ efforts across the country and issued more than 80 statements, admonishments and calls to action in defense of press freedom.
RTDNA has filed multiple amici briefs, including one leading to a key First Amendment victory.
Following an amici brief filed by RTDNA and several press freedom groups, an unconstitutional prior restraint order impacting the Los Angeles Times was overturned, one of several major press freedom victories over the last year.
After our outcry along with others, several decisions hostile to the First Amendment were reversed around the country. In Washington State, the governor vetoed a damaging legislative secrecy bill. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned a gag order imposed in a high-profile murder case. Following our protests, Kentucky State Police rescinded an unconstitutional order attempting to regulate when journalists could report on investigations.
Though eight journalists started off 2018 facing charges related to their work, several are now free as charges were dropped in the case of an independent journalist covering the inauguration, a reporter at Standing Rock, and a journalist arrested merely for having the audacity to ask a public official a question.
In another key win, Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez is free after a long immigration battle.
Press freedom upheld
Following ongoing challenges making St. Louis the most dangerous place in the country to be a reporter, an issue RTDNA followed throughout the fall, in November a federal court issued a sweeping order to St. Louis police to change their tactics.
Finally, in a story that generated the largest single-day traffic ever to RTDNA.org as well as significant press, RTDNA revealed that t-shirts reading “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” were available on several major ecommerce platforms, including WalMart, Amazon and eBay, placed by third party sellers and promptly removed at RTDNA’s request.
The issue generated some healthy debate (and quite a bit of not-so-healthy trolling) but RTDNA stood behind the position that just because one can say something doesn’t mean one should, as hostile words can too easily escalate into violent actions.
First Amendment Awards
This March, RTDNF showcased individuals and organizations that exemplify responsible journalism and who practice their constitutionally guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth. They shared words of wisdom, caution and inspiration. As RTDNF and RTDNA promote and protect First Amendment Freedoms, the honorees reminded the journalists in the room that they too can be press freedom champions by responding to threats with more and better journalism.
From more than 4,400 entries, 785 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards in 16 categories this year recognized more than 307 local radio, television and digital news organizations across the country and internationally. The national round recognized 89 local and network radio, television and digital news organizations for 118 examples of outstanding journalism in 16 categories. The 2018 RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala will be held Monday, October 22, at Gotham Hall in New York City. All winners, families and friends of press freedom are invited.
Diversity and Finance Awards
The winners of the 2018 Kaleidoscope Awards, honoring the best in reporting on issues related to diversity, will be recognized Friday at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore. The RTDNA/NEFE Personal Finance Reporting Award winners for 2018 will be recognized and break down their award-winning pieces at a Friday afternoon session at EIJ.
“Know Your Reporting Rights” Panel
For Free Speech Week on Friday, October 20, RTDNA organized a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington in partnership with the National Press Club Institute, the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Reel Media Group.
With about 80 in attendance at the Press Club, hundreds watching the live stream online and an online video reach since of more than 14,000, the discussion included insights from lawyers, media executives and reporters in response to First Amendment questions from students and young professionals prerecorded at EIJ17 in September and those in attendance.
In addition to hosting the annual RTDNA@NAB reception, RTDNA provided several training opportunities at the most recent NAB Show. Dan Shelley appeared on an American Bar Association panel on the intersection of press freedom and the law. Chairman Scott Libin appeared on a panel about press freedom, along with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and others. Vince Duffy and Dan Shelley appeared on a panel discussing the intersection between press freedom, law enforcement and the law as it relates to covering social movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.
Anchor Leadership Summit
On July 12-13, RTDNA and Loyola University Chicago co-sponsored an Anchor Leadership Summit on the Loyola downtown Chicago campus, a type of training not offered by any other organization.
Inspired and spearheaded by Chairman Scott Libin, he, co-organizer Jill Geisler, and a notable group of corporate-level and anchor/reporter instructors conducted two full days of training for 82 television news anchors from markets large and small all around the country.
Past program alumnus and NBC News and MSNBC anchor and correspondent Craig Melvin offered a keynote and participated in a panel discussion on breaking news coverage.
Attendees gained reporting and sourcing insights, worked on social media strategy, approached new conflict resolution and workplace integrity methods and learned leadership and coaching techniques.
When Tragedy Strikes: Covering Mass Shootings webinar
Several dozen newsrooms participated in a live discussion of the ethical considerations inherent in covering mass shootings. Based on new coverage guidelines issued by the RTDNA Ethics Committee. Committee Chairman and Region 13 Director Terence Shepherd, along with Region 2 Director Brandon Mercer provided insights on applying the guidelines based on Shepherd’s own experience covering the Parkland tragedy. Held tragically soon after the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, RTDNA waived the registration fee for non-members, encouraging attendees instead to make a donation to the GoFundMe.com account set up for the victims and their families.