Friday, February 26, 2016

Teaching By Example

I've been wanting to write about Melissa Click, the now former professor at the University of Missouri, for some time now.

I just haven't really known what to say.

That is what this is all about, you see. Freedom of speech. That is really what we as journalists — and I still count myself as a journalist even though I am no longer working in the field — are meant to defend in this country. Among other things. We are expected to be and to do many things in America, although, sadly, many of today's professional journalists have lost sight of their responsibility.

In my mind, freedom of speech and freedom of the press go hand in hand. I can't remember a time when I did not feel that way, and I can't imagine having one without the other.

The case of Melissa Click is troubling because she is the assistant mass media communications professor who was seen in the memorable video calling for "some muscle" to prevent a student journalist from reporting on a campus protest in November. She was fired this week — and rightfully so.

Click was not a journalism professor per se. But I am sure she worked with journalism students — newspaper, TV, radio, digital — as a professor of mass media communications. I always wanted to attend Mizzou. It was one of the finest journalism schools in the country when I was college age. While I haven't consulted college rankings by department recently, I'm pretty sure it still is.

It is inconceivable to me that a professor of mass media communications would not interact with journalism students at such a school.

In Click's mind, I am reasonably sure that she felt — at that moment — that she was defending freedom of speech. But what did that video tell her journalism students about her commitment to freedom of the press?

I don't know which classes she taught, but I hope she didn't teach one on the Constitution and journalism.

The protest was being held on a public university campus. The press had every right to be there, but Click did not want the press to be there. So she called for "some muscle" to rid her of that pesky press.

I wonder why Richard Nixon never tried that.

I guess the First Amendment is a problem for some people who are in the public eye. But I believe, as I say, that you can't have freedom of speech without freedom of the press and vice versa.

Since the video at the top of this post surfaced, I have been trying to reconcile her actions with that belief.

And I can't.

I wish her well. I'm not vindictive. But I am glad that she is no longer teaching those who seek careers in mass media.

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