Expanding the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker two years after launch


Executive Director

Estonian World

A little over 18 months ago, Freedom of the Press Foundation — in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists and several other prominent press rights organizations— launched the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a database and website that aims to systematically count press freedom violations in the US.

In fewer than two years, we have documented, reported on, and categorized close to 300 press freedom violations in the United States. This critical information — about journalists arrested, stopped at the border, surveilled, denied public access, and physically attacked — opens a window into some of the most urgent problems for journalists working in the United States. Many of these incidents were not reported elsewhere, and the Tracker is the only place where all such violations are documented in one place. (See our review of the 2018 data in this post by our Tracker correspondent Camille Fassett).

We’re pleased to announce we’re expanding the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker and making it a permanent part of the press freedom infrastructure in the United States.

First, we have a new managing editor, Kirstin McCudden. Kirstin has both a bachelor’s and master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, and comes to us from Kansas City PBS, where she was managing editor of digital. Under her leadership, we’ll be expanding the number of correspondents around the country reporting cases, amplifying our reporting so our stories reach a wider audience, and exploring new ways we can bring these issues to the public.

This expansion means we can continue adapting to new press freedom threats as they arise. Recently, our correspondent Stephanie Sugars created a map of many of the hoax bomb threats aimed at news organizations in late 2018. Sadly, we have also started to track journalists killed in the United States, after the tragic events in Annapolis last year. In addition, we’re always looking at ways of better documenting systematic harassment of journalists or direct threats of physical harm that have increasingly been at the forefront in recent months.

As part of our plan to amplify the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, we will begin to regularly send out updates regarding major press freedom threats to the Tracker’s newsletter subscribers. If you would like to receive these updates, please click here to subscribe, if you haven’t already.

We’re also thrilled to announce new funding and support for the Tracker, which not only ensures its sustainability but also casts a wider net to people that wouldn’t otherwise hear about this important project.

Our partners on the project, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), generously funded the launch and the first 18 months of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s operations. CPJ will continue to provide significant financial support, and we’ve also received two other major grants to help cement and expand the project: Craig Newmark Philanthropies and Open Society Foundations. Thank you to all these organizations for funding this important work.

Finally, we’d like to hear from you. Are you a journalist who has had their rights violated? Please get in touch here, so we can document your case. Or maybe you’re a journalist who wants to use our data, or give us suggestions on what data we can collect that would be more useful. Please let us know. Or maybe you just want to stay better attuned to the variety of threats journalists face and what can be done about it. If so, please sign up for our newsletter.

Or if you’d like to donate to support the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker so we can sustain it for many years to come, please go here.

It’s always concerning when there are so many threats to press freedom that need documenting. But our hope is that by shining a light on it, we can help prevent more of these acts from happening in the future.

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