A View from the Field: Liberating Journalism & Meeting Musk
A View from the Field is an ongoing feature that highlights the efforts of Free Press’ team of organizers and advocates.
We provide regular updates from the field as staffers work alongside our amazing allies and activists to create a more just and equitable media system. This installment covers all of the activity that happened in October and November.
Fighting for reparations and inclusive journalism
- The Media 2070 team attended the “Saving Journalism 2: What Can We Learn from the Rest of the World?” gathering at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs and gave a presentation on the fight to secure media reparations. Media 2070 co-founders Alicia Bell, Joseph Torres and Collette Watson took part along with Program Manager Diamond Hardiman. During the event, Senior Director of Strategy and Communications Timothy Karr presented “Journalism’s Bad Bargain,” his report on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. Legal Fellow Sanjay Jolly cowrote this critique of this bill.
- The Media 2070 documentary Black in the Newsroom, which Collette directed, won best documentary at the Peachtree Village International Film Festival in Atlanta. The Media, Inequality & Change Center at the University of Pennsylvania subsequently hosted both a screening of the film and a panel discussion. Collette, News Voices Director Vanessa Maria Graber and News Voices: Philadelphia Program Manager Cassie Owens helped plan the event, and Vanessa Maria spoke during the gathering about Media 2070’s reparations work. Sanjay attended the gathering.
- Collette presented the session “What If Arizona Was a Black Utopia?” at the Facing Race conference in Phoenix. She also led a strategy session on local news and Black futures.
- News Voices: Philadelphia Project Manager Tauhid Chappell took part in the panel discussion “BIPOC & the Media Landscape” at Rowan University in New Jersey. The conversation explored strategies for inclusive reporting and ways to build diverse news organizations.
- The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists presented Vanessa Maria, Tauhid and Cassie with an award honoring their work organizing the Journalist Accountability Watchdog Network (J.A.W.N.). The award also recognized the J.A.W.N. coalition’s bravery in standing up to The Philadelphia Inquirer for its failure to build a newsroom that reflects the diversity of Philadelphia’s residents.
- Vanessa Maria and Tauhid also spoke at the Center for Cooperative Media’s Local News Summit, where they discussed the J.A.W.N. coalition’s fight for newsroom equity, representation and accountability.
- The New Jersey Civic Information Consortium hosted the first in-person gathering of its grantees, who are working to diversify journalism, improve government transparency, provide community-health news and better serve communities of color and immigrant communities. Senior Director of Journalism Policy Mike Rispoli, who’s also a member of the consortium’s board, attended the gathering, where grantees discussed their projects and began to find ways to collaborate with each other. A Free Press Action case study chronicles the organization’s efforts to pass the bill that created the consortium.
Protecting digital civil rights
- Co-CEO Jessica J. González took part in the panel discussion “Centering Online Privacy as a Civil Right: The Need for Federal Data Privacy Law Protections,” which the Black Women’s Roundtable hosted. The conversation explored the need to pass the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which would prohibit online platforms and other entities from collecting, processing and sharing people’s data in ways that discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or disability.
- Jessica also took part in a meeting with Twitter CEO Elon Musk to urge him to protect platform users. “I shared my concerns that hate, harassment and conspiracy theories proliferate on the platform, and underscored the disproportionate harm that unmoderated social-media spaces inflict on women and people of color. I asked him to retain and fully enforce election-integrity measures,” Jessica said. Musk broke all of the promises he made during this meeting, and the #StopToxicTwitter coalition, which Free Press helps lead, is pushing advertisers to suspend all advertising on the platform as hate and disinformation skyrocket to unprecedented levels.
- Senior Counsel and Director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights Nora Benavidez participated in the launch of the Council for Responsible Social Media in Washington, D.C. Nora, who’s also a member of the council, spoke during a panel discussion with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Former Rep. Dick Gephardt moderated the conversation.
- Nora took part in the panel discussion “Democracy Compromised: How Disinformation and Online Abuse Hinder Women of Color Political Candidates in the United States.” The discussion explored a new Center for Democracy & Technology report, which found that political candidates who are women of color are four times as likely as their white counterparts to experience violent online abuse.
- Nora introduced a session on cyber threats and digital rights at the Knight Foundation’s “Informed” gathering, which featured conversations about democracy in the digital age.