Speaker to discuss threats to free press domestically, abroad

Casey Mccarthy

Joel Simon, executive director of the international nonprofit, Committee to Protect Journalists, will speak at WKU on Monday at 7 p.m. in Mass Media & Technology Hall Auditorium.

Simon will give the 13th annual installment of the John B. Gaines Family Lecture Series, which hosts lectures by professional journalists each year. The goal of Simon’s talk, “Trump & The Truth: Defending Press Freedom at Home & Abroad,” is to  put current events in the U.S. in an international context by looking at patterns and trends.

“We believe press freedom is fundamental to our country and the way things happen all over the world,” Simon said.

CPJ has been around for over 35 years and aims to support frontline journalists, especially journalists whose lives and liberty are most vulnerable. Simon said the committee is becoming increasingly more engaged in the U.S. after growing concern with the rhetoric and message sent by President Donald Trump.

Journalism professor Amanda J. Crawford, who organized the event, reached out to CPJ and Joel Simon because of concerns by journalists everywhere and concerns with threats to free press in the U.S.

“As a journalist who studies these issues, I was thinking there was a nexus of connectivity between what we see around the world and what we are seeing here in the United States,” Crawford said.

Simon will also be meeting with students Tuesday in classes and hopes to hold a more intimate discussion as well as raise awareness for imprisoned journalists around the globe.

“We have some ideas of how they can put their effort to work,” Simon said.

Michael Noble Jr., a senior photojournalism major from St. Louis, said he hopes to learn how to  keep himself safe as a journalist.

“We’re taught AP style and how to take a photo but not how to protect ourselves, especially in a digital age,” Noble said.

Noble feels there is much more to look out for in the digital age and wonders if secrecy can even be promised. Noble said he has heard a few students mention the event and believes a lot of students will attend.

The Gaines lecture series, sponsored by the Gaines family, who own the Bowling Green Daily News, has covered a variety of topics. Previous participants include WKU alumna and New York Times reporter,  Nikita Stewart,  in 2016 and bestselling author Beth Macy and photojournalist Jared Soares in 2015.

“We just try to make it something we think students are interested in, something that’s timely,” Crawford said.

Crawford said journalists, who often are mistrusted and doubted, are seeing a president actively undermine  the idea of a free press.

“Journalists really help us to see what is actually happening, the truth on the ground,” Crawford said. “And in some countries they are punished, censored, for doing that job.” 

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at (270)-929-7795 and [email protected]pper.wku.edu.