Journalism Professors Unite

    April 4, 2020

    Every pandemic in history has been followed by a cultural and social blossoming. This one can too, but only if we use this time to reflect on what that blossoming might look like. In the midst of the darkness that’s our slice of light.

    ~Marianne Williamson

    From Journalists and Teachers of Journalism

    “Americans consistently rate the Fox News Channel as one of the most trusted TV channels. The average age of Fox News viewers is 65. It is well established that this population incurs the greatest risk from the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Fox News viewers are at special risk from the coronavirus.

    But viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network — false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.

    The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers — and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well.

    Yet by commission as well as omission — direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis — Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19. As the virus spread across the world, Fox News hosts and guests minimized the dangers, accusing Democrats and the media of inflating the dangers (in Sean Hannity’s words) to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” Such commentary encouraged President Trump to trivialize the threat and helped obstruct national, state, and local efforts to limit the coronavirus.

    The network’s delinquency was effective. According to a YouGov/Economist poll conducted March 15–17, Americans who pay the most attention to Fox News are much less likely than others to say they are worried about the coronavirus. A Pew Research poll found that 79% of Fox News viewers surveyed believed the media had exaggerated the risks of the virus. 63% of Fox viewers said they believed the virus posed a minor threat to the health of the country. As recently as Sunday, March 22, Fox News host Steve Hilton deplored accurate views of the pandemic, which he attributed to “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces — whipping up fear over this virus.”

    Fox News reporters have done some solid reporting. And the network has recently given some screen time to medical and public health professionals. But Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts, on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty. There is a tendency to accept (or reject) them all indiscriminately, for after all, they are talking heads who appear on Fox News, a trusted source of news. When the statements of knowledgeable experts are surrounded by false claims made by pundits and politicians, including President Trump — claims that are not rebutted by knowledgeable people in real time — the overall effect is to mislead a vulnerable public about risks and harms. Misinformation furthers the reach and the dangers of the pandemic. For example, the day after Tucker Carlson touted a flimsy French study on the use of two drugs to treat COVID-19, President Trump touted “very, very encouraging early results” from those drugs, and promoted a third as a possible “game changer.”

    The basic purpose of news organizations is to discover and tell the truth. This is especially necessary, and obvious, amid a public health crisis. Television bears a particular responsibility because even more millions than usual look there for reliable information.

    Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic. Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans — including your elderly viewers — by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”


    (If you are a journalist or teacher of journalism and would like to add your name, click here.)

    Todd Gitlin, Professor, Chair, Ph. D. Program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School

    Mark Feldstein, Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism, University of Maryland

    Frances FitzGerald, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

    Adam Hochschild, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

    Edward Wasserman, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

    Lisa R. Cohen; Columbia Journalism School

    Gerald Johnson, Texas Student Media

    Susan Moeller, Professor, Merrill College of Journalism, UMD, College Park

    Maurine Beasley, University of Maryland College Park

    Michael Deas, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

    Ivan Meyers, Medill School at Northwestern University

    Helen Benedict, Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University

    Hendrik Hertzberg, longtime staff writer and editor, The New Yorker

    Lewis Friedland, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Com, UW-Madison

    Dr. Tom Mascaro, Ph.D. Bowling Green State University, School of Media & Communication

    Tom Bettag, Visiting Fellow, University of Maryland

    Betty H Winfield University of Missouri Curators’ Professor Emerita

    Frank D. Durham, University of Iowa

    Dennis Darling Professor, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

    Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism Columbia Journalism School

    Ari L. Goldman, professor, Columba University Graduate School of Journalism

    Jennifer Kahn, Narrative Program Lead, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

    Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa

    Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

    Rosental C Alves, University of Texas at Austin

    Pauline Dakin, Ass. Professor, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia

    Nina Alvarez, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School

    Travis Vogan, University of Iowa

    Ali Noor Mohamed, United Arab Emirates University

    Linda Steiner, Acting Director, Ph.D. Studies; Professor, Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park

    Lucas Graves, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW — Madison

    Anna Everett, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

    Richard Appelbaum, Fielding Graduate University; UCSB Emeritus

    Tom Collinger, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism

    Wenhong Chen, Founding Co-director, Center for Entertainment and Media Industries Associate Professor ofMedia Studies and Sociology, Moody College of Communication The University of Texas at Austin

    LynNell Hancock, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

    Donna DeCesare, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

    Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

    Michael Murray, UM Curators Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UM-St. Louis

    Michael Schudson, Columbia University

    Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

    Brian Ekdale, University of Iowa

    Gina Masullo, University of Texas at Austin

    Krishnan Vasudevan, Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland at College Park

    Harold Evans, former editor Sunday Times and The Times, London

    Chuck Howell, Librarian for Journalism & Communication Studies, University of Maryland

    Clarke L. Caywood Ph.D, Professor Medill School of Journalism Media Integrated Marketing Communications

    Andie Tucher, Director, PhD program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School

    Kalyani Chadha, Associate Professor, University of Maryland

    Denis P. Gorman, Freelance Journalist

    Jon Marshall, Northwestern University

    Kevin Lerner, Marist College

    Joel Whitebook, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research

    Abe Peck, Prof. Emeritus in Service, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University

    Carrie Lozano, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley

    Susie Linfield, Dept of Journalism, New York University

    Charles Berret, University of British Columbia

    Jay Rosen, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University

    Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Professor of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

    Joseph Straubhaar, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas, Austin

    Edward C Malthouse, Haven Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Media and IMC, Northwestern University

    Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism, New York University

    Patricia Loew, Ph.D. Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

    Richard Fine, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University

    John E. Newhagen Associate Prof. Emeritus University of Marylans

    Caryn Ward, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing and Communication

    David Hajdu, Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

    Naeemul Hassan, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland

    Stephen D. Reese, School of Journalism & Media, U of Texas at Austin

    Kevin Klose, Professor, University of Maryland

    John Vivian, Winona State University

    Sue Robinson, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Thomas P. Oates, University of Iowa

    Samuel Freedman, Columbia Journalism School

    Susan Mango Curtis, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

    Prof. Robert S. Boynton, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU

    Leonard Steinhorn, Professor of Communication and Affiliate Professor of History, American University

    J.A. Adande, Medill School, Northwestern

    Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania

    Summer Harlow, Assistant Professor, University of Houston

    Danielle K. Kilgo, Ph.D., Indiana University

    Jack Doppelt, Northwestern University

    Gerry Lanosga, The Media School, Indiana University

    Martin Riedl, PhD Candidate, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin

    Rich Shumate, School of Media, Western Kentucky University

    Mac McKerral, School of Media, Western Kentucky University

    Mel Coffee, University of Maryland

    David J. Vergobbi, University of Utah

    Tom Boll, part-time instructor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

    Dannagal G. Young, Associate Professor of Communication and Political Science, University of Delaware

    Ken Light, Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

    George Harmon, emeritus faculty, Medill School of Journalism

    Rachel Young, University of Iowa

    Carol M. Liebler, Professor, Newhouse School, Syracuse University

    Kyu Ho Youm, University of Oregon

    Julianne H Newton, University of Oregon

    Bethany Swain, University of Maryland

    Gi Woong Yun, Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno

    Thomas E. Winski, MJE Retired Assistant Professor of Journalism, Emporia State University

    Roy L Moore, Professor (retired), Middle TN State University

    Ira Chinoy, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

    Jay Edwin Gillette, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Information and Communication Sciences Center for Information and Communication Sciences, Ball State University

    Michael Anderson, retired journalist

    Kimberley Shoaf, Professor of Public Health, University of Utah

    Erica Ciszek, University of Texas at Austin

    Daniel C. Hallin, University of California, San Diego

    Keith W. Strandberg, Webster University, Geneva

    Sophie Furley, Editor

    Frank Sesno, Director, George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs

    Timothy V. Klein, Louisiana State University

    *Affiliations listed for identification only.



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