Skip to Main Content
Explore News

Medill dean writes letter with leaders from journalism schools across country on press freedom

Northwestern Medill logo

For Immediate Release

No single action exemplifies press freedom as perfectly as that of the lone reporter standing to question the president before the public. That’s why we the undersigned, leaders of journalism education, strongly condemn the White House decision to revoke CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass for doing just that. While we applaud a federal judge’s ruling temporarily restoring Acosta’s access, we insist that the revocation remains an affront to the expressive freedoms the First Amendment was enacted to protect, and demand it be rescinded forthwith.

The incident began on Wednesday, Nov. 7, when President Trump held a press conference to discuss midterm election results. Acosta questioned Trump about remarks in which the President called the Honduran migrant caravan an “invasion,” and asked if he might be “demonizing immigrants.”

The President interrupted Acosta, insulted his professionalism and called him a “rude terrible person.” Trump continued: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them.” Then, at Trump’s bidding, a White House intern tried to take the microphone away from Acosta, who withheld it from her. Later that night, he was barred from the White House grounds, and security officials demanded the return of the press pass he has held for five years.

Although gratuitous, harsh and insulting reprimands directed at reporters and news organizations that pose inconvenient questions are routine under this administration, the Acosta incident crosses an important line regarding First Amendment protections and press freedom.

Prohibiting White House access to punish a reporter for asking vexing questions of significant public concern resembles the act of an autocrat, not the chief of state of a constitutional republic. The President’s actions against Acosta seem clearly intended to warn other journalists: If you question governmental actions and sayings, the same might happen to you. Play it safe: Sit down and be quiet.

We stand by a free press. We speak for journalists and journalism educators, and it is our duty to encourage the vigorous questioning of our leaders that is necessary to keep them accountable. That is why we, the undersigned, stand by Jim Acosta and demand that his press credentials be restored at once, without further pointless litigation.

Charles Whitaker
Interim Dean and Professor
Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
Northwestern University 

Sarah Bartlett
Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
City University of New York

David Boardman
Dean and Professor
Klein College of Media and Communication
Temple University

Lorraine Branham
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University

Steve Coll
Dean, Graduate School of Journalism
Henry Luce Professor of Journalism
Columbia University

Lucy Dalglish
Professor and Dean
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland

Thomas Fiedler
Dean and Professor of the Practice of Journalism
Boston University College of Communication

Kathleen McElroy
Director, School of Journalism
Moody College of Communication
University of Texas at Austin

Gordon Stables
USC Annenberg School of Journalism

Edward Wasserman
Dean and Professor
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism