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School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Wenger Statement on School of Journalism and New Media’s Commitment to Democracy

Posted on: January 7th, 2021 by drwenger

For many, it was a day of reckoning.

Yesterday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol and on our democracy has reinforced this country’s critical need for journalists and the work that they do in holding the powerful accountable.

The credible reporting we witnessed yesterday requires courage and a foundation in sound journalistic principles.

It takes the kind of courage we saw from alumnus and CNBC anchor Shepard Smith, who interrupted coverage of President Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday to fact check the president’s claims of rampant voter fraud without providing evidence.

It takes the kind of courage we learned about from those behind the scenes, too, such as photojournalist and alumnus John Bullard, who shared with us how the security guards the network had hired for his crew told them to leave their location. Less than 15 minutes later their work area was laid to waste by rioters.

I’m proud and humbled by their commitment to our profession.

But it was also a day of reckoning for journalism educators.

We will need to work harder.

We will need to do more to ensure that our graduates have the skills they need to identify and call out false statements and to have the courage to avoid the kind of misguided “bothsideism” reporting that has created a sense that there are no facts and there is no truth to tell.

However, I am proud to work with colleagues and students who will rise to the challenge.

The School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi values the First Amendment and asserts the importance of a free press in the preservation of democracy.

For that reason, we are committed to educating the next generation of courageous journalists.

Debora Wenger
Interim Dean, School of Journalism & New Media

Witnessing yesterday’s events was certainly confusing and disturbing; for some, it was traumatizing. The university provides counseling services. Call the University Counseling Center at 662-915-3784, Monday-Friday (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) or the UM Dept. of Psychology at 662-915-7385.