Should journalists show support for Trayvon Martin, ask for Scott Walker’s recall?

Two separate incidents involving journalists who work for Gannett and ESPN have renewed attention to the issue of how journalists should exercise their right to free speech.

Earlier this week, editors and publishers at several Gannett papers said that its journalists had violated the company’s values by signing petitions calling for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall. ESPN, meanwhile, dropped its ban on staff posting photos of themselves wearing hoodies to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin.

These news organizations’ decisions raise interesting questions: Which of these types of speech should journalists feel free to exercise? And should journalists who are covering these stories limit their speech more than those who aren’t?

We asked our Twitter followers about this (take our poll here), and hosted a related live chat with Reuters’ Jack Shafer. During the chat, we discussed both situations and responded to feedback and questions from chat participants.

You can replay the chat here …

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  • Anonymous

    I have to agree with Shafer, though I’d leave out the Freudian stuff. Fact is, we have freedom of speech, and any employer with any type of organization, including those of the journalistic variety, has no right to interfere with that by threatening to take away your ability to make a living. Short of that, you might as well allow an employer to put a gun to your head. As long as he doesn’t pull the trigger before you’ve spoken, he hasn’t interfered with your freedom.  

    Besides that, there’s seems to be a whopping distinction between certain journalists and others. Copy editors and local reporters mustn’t sign petitions, but the “Today” show can have Sarah Palin as a co-host without anyone batting an eye and big-shot Washington journalists can rub elbows with the people they’re supposed to be covering at various correspondents’ dinners in D.C. and at cocktail parties and the like and everyone thinks it’s just peachy keen.


  • VistaPrint Coupons

    We do know of George Soros history, but you don’t need to be throwing
    gas on the fire. Give me a break. Nice try to incite the fools. Keep
    up the effort though, you are a very useful idiot. 

  • Mark Rummel

    If you sign a petition and want to become part of the story instead of covering it, then move over to Public Relations. Or… Join MSNBC or FOX News depending on your slant. Report the news don’t become become part of it. It is right to lay down the law. This is journalism 101.

  • Renfield

    Violated Gannett’s values?