We have previously discussed attorneys arrested in attacks with Molotov cocktails during protests. One of the individuals charged in the firebombing of police cars during Black Lives Matter protests in Arkansas turns out to be a former public radio reporter, Renea Goddard, 22. She is one of four charged in the slashing of police car tires and burning them with Molotov cocktails.
Goddard identifies herself on Twitter as president of Students for a Democratic Society. She worked for Arkansas Public Media after being awarded the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship. She also worked as a “reporter and host” for KUAR Public Radio.
This was reportedly her second arrest connected to a Black Lives Matter protest. She was arrested with Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 31, Emily Nowlin, 27, and Aline Espinosa-Villegas, 24.
As with the lawyers arrested in New York, such an attack shows a fundamental rejection of the role of reporters. It is an erosion of lines of separation from those we cover or represent.
In a way, it is the most extreme form of new advocacy for reporters. There has been a steady erosion of bright lines for reporters in their neutrality and objectivity. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Now, Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. Obviously, none of these individuals are calling for criminal acts from reporters but they have abandoned clear lines that once defined journalism. Few would contemplate firebombing as a form of advocacy but there has been a loss of clarity in the roles of reporters in the last four years that undermine the entire profession. I am less concerned about those who are willing to take violent action (which remain thankfully few in number) than I am about the many who view journalism as just another form of social and political advocacy.