Sunday, April 30, 2023

Where the U.S. stands on World Press Freedom Day 2023 (May 3)


Via Freedom Forum

Where the U.S. stands on World Press Freedom Day 2023

As the United Nations marks 30 years of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, it’s worth remembering how a mere four words in the First Amendment – “or of the press” – is the basis for press freedom in the United States.

Despite having prime constitutional billing, U.S. news outlets and journalists don’t enjoy the freest press conditions in the world. The U.S. doesn’t even rank in the top 20.

Wait, what?

Reporters Without Borders (known by their French initials, RSF) ranks the U.S. as 42 out of 180 countries. But that is up two spots from the 2021 ranking.

As RSF’s annual report puts it: “In the United States, once considered a model for press freedom and free speech, press freedom violations are increasing at a troubling rate.”

Similarly, global advocacy organization Freedom House gives the U.S. a three out of four on press freedom conditions. Not the worst, but there’s room to improve.

Certainly the U.S. isn’t North Korea, which RSF consistently ranks last.

Nor is it Russia, where the recent arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and ongoing treatment of imprisoned opposition leader, advocate of free expression and 2023 Freedom Forum Free Expression Award honoree Alexey Navalny makes the country’s press freedom ranking of 155 out of 180 countries seem too generous.

U.S. press freedom black holes


West Virginia Public Broadcasting, licensed to the state government, fired reporter Amelia Ferrell Knisely last December. The reporter claimed it was after pressure from state officials who didn’t like her reporting on accusations against a state agency and its treatment of people with disabilities.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik covered the fallout, reporting: “Interviews with 20 people with direct knowledge of events at West Virginia Public Broadcasting indicate Knisely's involuntary departure from her position as a part-time reporter was not an aberration but part of a years-long pattern of mounting pressure on the station from Gov. Jim Justice's administration and some state legislators.”

More than 200 local public radio stations, members of the NPR network, are independently owned and operated. Those stations are nonprofits, often licensed to public entities, such as universities, school districts, or in a few cases, state governments.

Whether these stations are licensed to an independent nonprofit or to a public entity, their editorial independence is what makes them essential and reliable news sources. Government funding of any amount does not equal editorial control. When interference happens, it undermines public trust in a free press.


A bill introduced this year in Florida immediately drew the ire of free press groups – and Gov. Ron DeSantis – for seeking to make “bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the state.”

The bill doesn’t target journalists working at established news outlets, but the spirit runs afoul of the First Amendment.

“53% would support a special licensing process for journalists, like that for doctors and lawyers – perhaps not recognizing press freedom is a right for all and that licensing would limit this freedom,” according to Freedom Forum’s 2022 Where America Stands survey.

Proposals like this aren’t new, particularly in the past 20+ years as publishing and sharing information by people who don’t work for traditional news outlets has become easier. The First Amendment protects more than just “the press,” an amorphous term more than 200 years on. It protects every person’s freedom to talk, write, or share opinions about government or any topic. Attempts to license people, be they journalists, bloggers or your neighbor complaining on Nextdoor will always draw scrutiny as being unconstitutional.


Despite the First Amendment’s broad protections for U.S. journalists, those freedoms generally don’t extend to sovereign Native American nations and their tribal-owned media. Federal and state freedom of information laws broadly guarantee anyone can request and receive communications of public officials and other government documents. But these laws don’t cover tribal governments.

For example, the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota have been accused of multiple transparency violations of its own constitution and bylaws, according to the Society of Professional Journalists.

These violations caused the Society of Professional Journalists to give the tribal nation its annual Black Hole Award, which “highlights the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know.”

Journalists who work for tribal-owned media and groups like the Native American Journalists Association and Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance have been pushing tribal governments to extend free press protections and broaden transparency, press access and freedom of information within their sovereign nations.

Friday, April 28, 2023


screen shot of on-line article "Remembering the radical women of The Photo League" with close up of 3 boys posing with fists raided in front of poster-covered outside wall

 Via Huck Magazine

April 26, 2023
By Miss Rosen

A new exhibition revisits the work of Sonia Handelman Meyer and Ida Wyman, who devoted themselves to social justice and chronicling daily city life as part of one of the most progressive art collectives in US history.

In 1936, a group of predominantly Jewish-American photographers in New York City came together to form The Photo League, dedicating themselves to using the camera in the ongoing fight for social change. By the ‘40s, the League’s roster included luminaries like W. Eugene Smith, Berenice Abbott, Paul Strand, Lisette Model and Weegee, with women accounting for more than a third of their membership at a time when gender equity in the industry was extremely rare.

Standing at the vanguard of art and activism, the League was dedicated to supporting the struggles of American workers through the Depression and the start of the post-war boom – only to be targeted by the FBI during the early years of the Red Scare. In 1947, the US Department of Justice blacklisted the Photo League as a “subversive organisation,” putting members at risk of government persecution.

The League rallied but was ultimately no match for the state, which used a paid informant to destroy the photography collective in court. Although the League finally disbanded in 1951, its legacy lives on in both the work of its members and their shared commitment to human rights.

four well-dressed men by street lamp in Spanish Harlem, New York c.1946
Sonia Handelman Meyer
Sharp dressers on the corner, Spanish Harlem (1946-1950) 

In a new exhibition, gallerists Sid and Michelle Monroe revisit the groundbreaking work of two photographers whose work as gone unrecognised until recent years: Ida Wyman (1926-2019) and Sonia Handelman Meyer (1920-1922).

Joe Meyer, manager of the Sonia Handelman Meyer Estate, remembers his mother as an artist and activist who first took interest in social issues as a teen. “When she joined the Photo League in her mid-20s, she found a new medium to share her radical ideals with an even broader audience,” he says.

Handelman Meyer attended rallies and participated in boycotts, devoting herself to civil rights, environmental and anti-war causes. Standing at the frontlines, she was tear gassed during protests in Washington D.C., charged by a mounted policeman in New York, and had rocks thrown at her during the 1949 Peekskill Riot.

In an artist statement written in her later years, Handelman Meyer recounted her work for the League photographing at an anti-lynching rally in Madison Square Park, at a Jehovah’s Witness convention in Yankee Stadium, and at the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, as well as chronicling daily life in New York, which she descried as “rough-edged, tender and very beautiful in its diversity.”

After the League shut down, Handelman Meyer packed up her prints and negatives and went underground for three years, fearing repercussions of her involvement. She lost track of League members, focusing her energy on raising a family and photographing nature instead.

After a series of events brought her work back into the public eye in 2007, Handelman Meyer, then 87, was finally able to receive the recognition she deserved. Charged with purpose, she picked up where she left off, passing along the mission of the Photo League to a new generation of photographers.

Sonia Handelman Meyer and Ida Wyman: Pioneering Women of the Photo League is on view April 21 – June 18, 2023, at Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Capturing Humanity: Photography exhibit explores snapshots of New York’s ordinary people


black and white photo of young Boy wearing hankerchief as a mask, New York City, c. 1946 by Sonia Handelman Meyer.

Via The Albuquerque Journal


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Two pioneering women photographers who were blacklisted by the Red Scare share wall space at Santa Fe’s Monroe Gallery of Photography.

Both Sonia Handelman Meyer and Ida Wyman were members of the Photo League. The league was a collective of photographers active from 1936-1951, who believed their work could change poor social conditions and champion photography as an art form. It thrived as one of the most progressive, dynamic and creative centers for photography in the country. About one-third of its members were women.

Handelman Meyer and Wyman roamed the streets of New York, capturing the humanity of ordinary people. In some ways, their gender helped them remain invisible to the people they photographed.

“There was a great advantage to being a woman at that time, to be considered as no consequence,” gallery co-owner Michelle Monroe said.

Handelman Meyer learned about socially engaged photography in workshops by one of the Photo League founders Sid Grossman.

She captured three boys affecting tough guy poses after chasing her down the streets of Spanish Harlem demanding that she photograph them. She also shot “Boy Wearing Mask, New York City” (1946-1950), an image less mysterious that it seems.

“He was playing cops and robbers,” Monroe said. “The way he’s looking at her; there’s a lot of ambiguities about that child. Was he playing? Is it mistrust? Was it just an interruption from an adult? He’s just playing.”

Wyman photographed for Life and Business Week magazines, as well as her own enjoyment. Her work went unheralded for decades.

She was 19 and working in Manhattan as a photo printer for the Acme Newspictures agency when she photographed several men in Manhattan’s garment district in April 1945. One held up a copy of The Jewish Daily Forward, the Yiddish-language newspaper, as the others read about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. Wyman’s “Looking East on 41st Street, NYC” (1947) down a canyon of skyscrapers captures the majesty and industry of the city.

black and white photo of men in the Garment District reading a newspaper in Yiddish about President Roosevelt’s Death, NYC, 1945,” Ida Wyman.

“Men of the Garment District Read of President Roosevelt’s Death, NYC, 1945,” Ida Wyman. (Courtesy of Monroe Gallery)

Before Handelman Meyer and Wyman, women were often assigned to shoot department store openings, Monroe said.

In 1947, the Photo League appeared on a long list of organizations identified with the Communist Party. Efforts to counter the allegation included a large exhibition, “This Is the Photo League.” But in 1949, Angela Calomiris, a Photo League member and F.B.I. informant, publicly testified that members of the organization were Communists. The League disbanded in 1951, a casualty of the Red Scare.

The league’s secretary at the time, Handelman Meyer answered the office phone when requests for comment about the accusations poured in from the media. She also received threatening calls.

“It got to be too much,” she told The New York Times. “They were blacklisting people. There were photographers who could not get their passports for overseas jobs. Little by little, it dissolved.”

When the league closed, Handelman Meyer put her photos and negatives in boxes and moved on with her life. They wouldn’t be opened for many years.

In the early 1940s, the list of notable photographers who were active in the league or supported their activities also included Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith, Helen Levitt, Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein, Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, Richard Avedon, Weegee, Robert Frank, Harold Feinstein, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White.

‘Two Pioneering Women Photographers of the Photo League’

Sonia Handelman Meyer and Ida Wyman

WHEN: Through June 18

WHERE: Monroe Gallery of Photography, 112 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe

CONTACT: 505-992-0800,

screen shot of article in newspaper

Friday, April 21, 2023

Pulitzer-winning photojournalist, Kent State shooting survivor John Filo discusses modern journalism

 Via The Berkeley Beacon

Pulitzer-winning photojournalist, Kent State shooting survivor John Filo discusses modern journalism

By Shannon Garrido, Content Managing Editor

April 20, 2023

A little more than half a century after the 1970 massacre at Kent State University, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John Paul Filo feels that the nation is in a state of confusion and outrage.

Filo, a survivor of the tragic shootings, photographed 14 year-old protester Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of 20-year-old Jeffrey Miller, a college student protesting the Vietnam War, who was shot dead by the Ohio National Guard soldiers. In an event last week, sponsored by Emerson’s Communication Studies Department, Filo and Vecchio were invited to speak to students last week at the Bright Screening Room of the Paramount Theatre.

Filo’s kind eyes and enthusiastic tone make his otherwise tall demeanor and impressive reputation less intimidating. Yet, in an interview with the Beacon, Filo went quiet before answering how people view that tragic event today—“I don’t know,” he says.

“It’s a generational thing,” Filo said. “The people that don’t know anything about Kent State are only a little younger than me. Yet the killing of Americans is still going on. And it’s even become more efficient.”

Filo, at the time a student journalist, was in the college photo lab when he heard gunshots on campus, leading him to rush to the courtyard where he witnessed Vecchio crying out to a body on the ground. As he prepared his lens, he noticed a guard pointing and firing a gun directly at him. Once he realized the guards carried real bullets—something many of the students did not initially realize—he turned back to run. However, he experienced something he describes as a “combination of innocence and stupidity” causing him to change his mind, and before he knew it, Filo was running back to photograph the scene.

Filo said sarcastically that his actions on that day were normally reserved for conflict zones.

“I never wanted to be a war photographer,” he said. “I was shot at once, that was enough for me.”

Since the KSU shooting, semi-automatic weapons available to the public have become twice as deadly, yet Filo said that the outrage, and the corresponding need to understand the history behind gun violence, has become far less common.

For years, students from middle school to college would constantly contact Filo, curious to learn about his experience at Kent State that fateful day. He hasn’t received a call like that in nearly five years. He wonders if the more time goes by, the more people forget that the massacres’ consequences affect politics in this nation today.

Filo believes that this disconnection is part of the new wave of journalism, where quantity trumps quality and the more terrifying an issue becomes, the more desensitized people become to it.

“Great things happened when people started shining a light on the bad parts of our society,” said Filo. “In the turn of the 1800s, pictures showing child labor were horrible, but that brought in labor laws. Horrific pictures of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement actually shocked people.”

Filo said that the Kent State shooting was another moment that shocked people. A wave of papers would not run his photographs, he said, because it revealed many truths across the nation.

Filo wonders if “the dumbing down of our whole industry,” where journalists stop trying to send a message, prevents stories from having the same impact.

“Now we are on this teeter totter of mass murder, funeral, mass murder, funeral,” Filo said. “And there’s nothing breaking this rocking back and forth. Personally, I’m saying there needs to be that shock and outright disgust that brings people to the street to protest.”

Although he is glad his photograph gained the traction it did, the efforts would be futile to Filo if journalism stops having the same impact today. In regards to how photojournalism could steer away from sensationalism while still being persuasive, Filo believes there is no harm in relying on tools of the past.

“What happens today is to get their money’s worth, the [newspapers] say ‘hey take a digital camera go out and shoot,’ said Filo. “Don’t try to edit down the visual space to try to get a message out of it, to push onto the viewer. Instead they go and take the 2000 photos.”

Photography, Filo said, held a different value during his career. When new film colors came out—and suddenly color meant more than just ink on paper—it transformed the photographer’s ability to tell stories. Filo said he misses the authenticity of it all, joking about a past frustration with sports photographers in the West Coast who could make their players look tanner and livelier than those in the east coast. Yet it was reflective to the West Coast sun—which is less constant here in the gloomy east.

Today, Filo said he fears he can no longer tell where the photos were taken, with photoshop and advanced camera equipment. He believes this makes it more difficult to trust, or even care about the pictures displayed in the media. However, the need for far-reaching photojournalism is more dire than ever.

Filo said that the media should not distinguish its coverage between what he considers state-sanctioned violence—like what occurred at Kent State—to the surplus of mass shootings the nation has experienced the last few decades. Yet he fears that a careless and repetitive media that “recycles” facts, photos and figures does little to make the viewer uncomfortable when mass shootings occur.

He referenced the shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee where six lives were lost, including nine-year-olds—adding on to his initial point that regardless of how much coverage it received, there wasn’t nearly enough shock or outrage.

“It’s one thing to see a wounded adult,” Filo said. “It’s another thing to see a butchered child.”

He woders if the media’s approach to this news as “another day, another tragedy,” discourages action instead of promoting it.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Save the date: FaultLines: Democracy: A conference on building a democratic press

 Via Columbia University Journalism School

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 10:00 AM -

Wednesday, April 26, 2023 3:00 PM

Pulitzer Hall, 2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Room/Area: Jamail Lecture Hall

Save the date for this critical, two-day conversation about the role of a free press in a thriving democracy and its responsibility when a democracy is under assault. This signature event from the Columbia Journalism School will feature historians, journalists, policy makers and others to assess the state of the press in America and provide a roadmap for what happens next. A detailed agenda and a list of confirmed speakers to be announced soon.

For more details, go to

Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues.

RSVP here.

By RSVP'ing, I attest that I meet the University’s vaccination requirement for event attendance and that I will be prepared to provide proof day of.

DAY ONE: TUESDAY, APRIL 25, Lecture Hall, Columbia Journalism School

10 a.m. Welcome by President Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University

10:15 a.m.-11:15 a.m.

America 2030

Moderator: Adam Serwer, The Atlantic

Annette Gordon-Reed, historian

Robert Kagan, Brookings Institution

Kathy Roberts Forde, author

Jeff Chang, journalist

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Democracy and the World

Masha Gessen, The New Yorker

Jodie Ginsberg, Committee to Protect Journalists

Sheila Coronel, Columbia Journalism School

LUNCH: The World Room, Columbia Journalism School

 1:35 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Journalism and Democracy

Moderator: Jelani Cobb, Columbia Journalism School

Errin Haines, the 19th

George Packer, The Atlantic

Margaret Sullivan, Guardian US columnist

Graciela Mochkofsky, City University of New York

Charles Whitaker, Medill School of Journalism

2:40 p.m.- 3:40 p.m.

Policy and the Press

Moderator: Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC

Joe Kahn, The New York Times

Sally Buzbee, The Washington Post

Kevin Merida, The Los Angeles Times

Alessandra Galloni, Reuters

Olatunde C. Johnson, Columbia Law School


10:05 a.m.- 11:05 a.m.

Saving America

Moderator: Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Subrata De, Vice

Zeynep Tufekci, Columbia Journalism School

Eric Foner, historian

11:10 a.m.-11:20 a.m.

Video message from President Barack Obama

11:25 a.m.- 12:25 p.m.

Covering Vulnerable Communities

Moderator: Duy Linh Tu, Columbia Journalism School

Nina Alvarez, Columbia Journalism School

Nina Berman, Columbia Journalism School

June Cross, Columbia Journalism School

Daniel Alarcon, Columbia Journalism School

LUNCH: World Room, Columbia Journalism School

1:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

Democracy Town Hall

Host: Maria Hinojosa, Futuro Media

Event Contact Information:

Kyle Pope

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Glazer's Presents: The January 6th Insurrection in Photos with Nate Gowdy

 Via Glazer's Camera

black and white photo of rioters on steps of US Capitol at 5:07:45 PM, January 6, 2021, US Capitol, Washington, DC

Join Nate Gowdy for an engaging visual presentation on the making of Insurrection, the only book of photojournalism dedicated to chronicling the deadly mob attack on the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

As a seasoned political photographer who had already covered 30 Trump rallies, Gowdy was confident he could handle one more. However, the events that transpired were beyond anyone’s expectations.

Gowdy will share his firsthand anecdotes and insights into his creative process amidst the chaos and violence of that fateful day. Despite being “fake news” and assaulted twice for carrying professional cameras, he remained committed to capturing the truth.

This event offers attendees the opportunity to connect with the photographer and delve deeper into the stories behind his January 6th portfolio, originally shot on assignment for Rolling Stone. He will also discuss his journey in self-publishing.

Copies of Gowdy's debut monograph, Insurrection, will be available after the presentation and Q&A.

Gowdy maintains a photography studio in Seattle’s International District, and his fine art is represented at Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Save the date: Two Pioneering Women Photographers of The Photo League Gallery Talk April 21



black and white portraits of photographer Sonia Handelman Meyer seated in her studio and Ida Wyman holding her cameras circa 1940s

Opening Gallery talk April 21 with managers of the photographer’s estates, Joe Meyer, son of Sonia Handelman Meyer, and Heather Garrison, granddaughter of Ida Wyman. The talk starts promptly at 5:30, seating is limited and RSVP is essential. Zoom registration here. The exhibition continues through June 18, 2023.

The Photo League was a collective of photographers active between 1936-1951 who believed their work could change poor social conditions and champion photography as an art form in the process. The Photo League thrived as one of the most progressive, dynamic and creative centers for photography in America, and was unusual in its time as many of the collective’s members were women.

In the 1940s when McCarthyism started gathering momentum in the US, suspicious authorities decided to clamp down on the Photo League’s confrontational and uncensored representations of urban American society. In 1948, it was declared a subversive organization and blacklisted. As the league’s secretary at the time, Sonia Handelman Meyer answered the office phone when requests for comment about the accusations poured in from the media. “It got to be too much,” she told The New York Times. “They were blacklisting people”.

Both photographer’s work went unrecognized for decades. In recent years, there has been a revived interest in the radical collective that contributed incomparably towards promoting early street photography as an art form.