Following Gianforte Assault – New York Journalism Chief To Reporters – ‘Keep Doing What You’re Doing’
The incoming Executive Director of the Radio Television Digital News Directors Association, Dan Shelley, has some advice for journalists following the assault on Ben Jacobs by Congressman-Elect Greg Gianforte - 'keep doing what you're doing'.
Shelley, speaking from his office in New York City, said he has been expecting such an incident, considering the increasingly negative view of the press in the last few years.
"I'd like to tell you that I was surprised or even shocked when I heard the news, but given the alarming rate at which the vitriol against the news media has been increasing all across the country, I was not surprised or shocked," Shelley said. "I was outraged, but not surprised. That increasing vitriol has led to this more unstable environment, if you will, for reporters simply trying to do their constitutionally guaranteed duty to seek the truth and report it in a responsible way."
Shelley said from all the eyewitness reports he has read and seen, and from listening to the audio from the incident, Jacobs, reporter for the Guardian, was not being unreasonable when he approached Gianforte for an interview.
"I can tell you, from the reports from the Fox News reporters on the scene, that the actions by Gianforte are inexcusable," he continued. "No one has the right to physically assault a member of the press who is doing a simple job of trying to ask a question of an elected official, or in this case, people who are trying to become elected officials. Violence is never excusable against reporters or anyone else."
Shelley had some advice for journalists, whether experienced, like Jacobs, or those just starting out.
"Keep doing what you're doing," he said. "Don't stop in the face of the increasing number of obstructions to legitimate efforts to gather the facts. Secondly, I think we as an industry, the journalism profession, need to do a much better job of helping the public understand the First Amendment, why press freedoms and news media access are absolutely essential to their daily lives. When reporters are assaulted or unjustly arrested, as is the case in other states, the reporter is not the victim. The victim is the American public because they're being obstructed from their constitutionally guaranteed right and need to know what's going on in their communities, their states and across the country."
Assault charges are pending against Gianforte by Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert.