Public radio reporter Jacqui Helbert of WUTC said the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga fired her after being pressured by lawmakers who were upset that she did not identify herself while covering their meeting with a high school group.
The Shop Talk panelists believe the university was wrong for caving in to the lawmakers (who deny they put any pressure on the university).
Rich Egger wondered how the lawmakers could not have known Helbert was a reporter. She wore a press badge and was using a recorder and microphone. Egger thinks the legislators were embarrassed about some of the comments they made but he thinks they will end up looking worse if it’s shown they pushed the university to get rid of Helbert.
Jasmine Crighton said she’s never seen a reporter interrupt proceedings to announce his/her presence and the lawmakers should not have expected Helbert to do so. Crighton said the microphone and press badge should have been enough to alert everyone that a journalist was in the room.
Crighton also points out the lawmakers’ remarks could have just as easily been recorded by one of the students and publicized online rather than on the radio.
Will Buss said Helbert was doing her job and was clearly there as a reporter. He said weak excuses were used to fire her. He thinks Helbert can make a strong case for reinstatement.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.