Reporter Gets Fired After Lawmaker Complains


The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga claims 32 year old Jacqui Helbert was fired for violating journalism ethics. The Times Free Press is reporting that local lawmakers complained about how Helbert reported on a on a state transgender bathroom bill.

Helbert reported the story for WUTC, which followed a group of Cleveland High School students as they traveled to the state capital to meet with Sen. Mike Bell and Rep. Kevin Brooks. Lawmakers claim Helbert failed to properly identify herself as a reporter. Helbert said she was wearing headphones and pointing a 22-inch large fuzzy microphone at the lawmakers as they spoke during the meeting.

“I even had to fumble with all my equipment to shake Bell’s hand,” Helbert told the paper.  Brooks said he was never given explicit notification that a reporter was in the meeting and what he shared with the students was personal — not for the public. The reporter must have been hidden in the crowd of high-schoolers, he said. Helbert said, “It was glaringly obvious who I was.” She said her NPR press pass was hanging around her neck.

This statement was posted to the WUTC Facebook page: “The University’s decision to release the employee from the station was based on a violation of journalism ethics. We believe the newsgathering process must be conducted in a manner that instills trust in the public. Failure to do so undermines journalistic credibility just as much as inaccurate information. We strive to maintain the faith of our listeners and the community we serve.”

Picture courtesy Times Free Press


  1. Depends how she was comporting herself. The article doesn’t really say, other than the word “how.” It won’t be the first time such so-called reporters behaved borderline abusively on university campuses. I’ve seen it myself. These days bad (even abusive and violent) behavior on campuses is becoming commonplace, as is the inability by those running the institutions to protect themselves from it. It’s ludicrous to assume that reporters are always the good guys in situations involving controversial issues. This article is very scarce on the facts of the matter, as are most I could find online. They only give her side of the story…which might be because the university is adhering to the standard convention of not discussing an ongoing legal case. The notion of reporters having to “toe the party line” is disingenuous to say the least. WUTR is a campus radio station meaning she was an employee of the university, which was within its rights (and has a responsibility) to ensure its employees conduct themselves properly. Otherwise you have a society of chaos and anarchy… much worse than a society in which a few people have to follow rules they don’t like so productive people can lead peaceful and (hopefully) prosperous and happy lives. I have learned that not everyone who plays the victim card these days actually is a victim, and although it’s just a hunch, I suspect that is the case with this story. Hopefully this lawsuit will bring the full story to light.


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