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NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists calls for the reinstatement of WUTC-FM reporter Jacqui Helbert, who was ousted from her job after covering Tennessee state officials in a way they didn’t like.

The University of Tennessee Chattanooga said university officials decided to terminate the employment of public radio reporter Helbert after receiving complaints from state legislators that Helbert did not identify herself as a journalist when covering a meeting between the lawmakers and students from a gay-straight alliance club. Such a decision should have been left to editors at the station, not university officials who may have been influenced by state lawmakers who oversee the university’s funding.

Helbert indicated she was carrying and using recording equipment and wearing a press badge —assertions supported by photos from the meetings and clear indications of her role in the meetings. As officials with NPR noted, Helbert should have said explicitly that she was there to report a story for a member station. However, “her mistake was not, her editors say, a firing offense. Instead, it was a learning moment for a new reporter and she was counseled about her mistake,” NPR Editorial Director Michael Oreskes and Supervising Senior Editor for Standards and Practices Mark Memmott said in a statement. We agree and call for safeguards to ensure state lawmakers and university officials don’t overstep their bounds by interfering with the journalists who are charged with covering them.

Sincerely,

NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists

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About NLGJA – The Association of LGBTQ Journalists:
NLGJA is an organization of journalists, news executives, media professionals, educators and students working from within the news industry to foster fair and accurate coverage of LGBTQ issues. NLGJA opposes all forms of workplace bias and provides professional development to its members. For more information, visit www.nlgja.org.