The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), a non-profit advocacy organization, launched the first edition of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker newsletter on Friday.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is a nonpartisan website detailing press freedom violations in the United States. The website was developed out of a coalition of more than two dozen advocacy groups and news organizations, including the FPF and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), to provide a centralized database of any threats to the freedom of the press.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation manages the day-to-day operations of the website, as well as curating the email newsletter. Additional partner organizations include the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and Index on Censorship.
The first edition of the Press Freedom Tracker newsletter documents press freedom incidents from the 2017 calendar year, including 34 arrests and 44 physical attacks against journalists in the U.S.
The majority of these incidents occurred during protests throughout the year, with demonstrations accounting for 88% of arrests and 70% of attacks. In 16 cases -- or a third of physical altercations against the press -- it was protesters themselves attacking journalists.
In two cases, American politicians assaulted members of the press. Alaska State Senator David Wilson slapped Nathaniel Hertz, a news reporter for Alaska Dispatch News, during an interview in May. Greg Gianforte, now a congressman representing Montana, body slammed Guardian U.S. reporter Ben Jacobs after Jacobs asked him a question about healthcare policy.
Eight journalists in the U.S. currently face criminal charges, including Aaron Cantú. Cantú was arrested while covering the #J20 protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration, and has been accused of aiding and abetting the small group of protestors that cause property damage that weekend. He has been indicted on eight charges, including two felony violations of the Riot Act.
The newsletter also highlights incidents from the first month of 2018, including Trump’s cease-and-desist letter to Michael Wolff and his book publisher to stop the release of the book Fire and Fury and the arrest of a man threatening to harm CNN employees in Atlanta, Georgia.
As email newsletters are increasingly being leveraged as a storytelling platform for journalism, press advocacy groups can turn to email in order to better communicate with its supporters. For example, The Washington Post currently delivers more than 60 newsletters of varying topics ranging from sports to parenting. Other examples of news organizations leveraging newsletter subscriptions as a storytelling platform include BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Quartz.
Newsletters offer journalists a platform to publish niche content. Since email subscribers are a smaller audience than newspaper readers, journalists can develop more beat-specific story content to engage with readers. News publications can also assert more control over their email newsletters, as they are not beholden to any algorithmic changes that Facebook or Google may make to their news feed.