April 29, 2021

The Radio and Television Digital News Association said the results of its new survey about how many TV journalists came under attack in 2020 are “shocking.” The report says one in five television news directors reported attacks on employees and 86% of news directors purchased bulletproof vests and gas masks and sent security teams with reporters more often.

(RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University survey)

The research found that “most of the attacks were made by protesters, but some involved the police.”

Stations told the RTDNA researchers that they increased the size of crews from one person to two people and sometimes more.

The attacks happened in markets of every size in almost every part of the country, although the report says, “The bigger the market, the more likely that there have been attacks, with 39% of news directors in top 25 markets reporting attacks. Journalism is more dangerous in the West than any other part of the country; network affiliation made no difference.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, because they keep a lower profile, the research found:

The level of attacks at radio stations and on radio news people is much lower. Four percent of radio news directors and general managers reported attacks on newsroom employees. It was primarily a problem in major markets, with one million and more people, where 13.8% of news directors and general managers reported attacks on employees. Region of the country made no difference.

(RTDNA/Newhouse School at Syracuse University survey)

The survey included 1,358 local TV stations and 765 radio news directors and general managers who oversee 2,310 radio stations.

The stations said they have begun some other security measures as a result of the violence they witnessed in 2020. Here are quotes from two TV station respondents:

  • “We have gone to a generic ‘by news dept.’ byline for all police beat items due to fear of retaliation for those accused of a crime.”
  • “We have new procedures to identify the sender of threatening email or phone messages to any staff who are working in the building on a daily basis.”

RTDNA is urging members to use the data “to move Congress to action on the Journalist Protection Act and Right to Record Police Act.” The Society of Professional Journalists also supported the act when it was first introduced in 2019.

The Journalist Protection Act “(e)stablishes new criminal offenses for intentional acts (or attempts to commit acts) that cause bodily injury to a journalist.”

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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