Journalism student sues ASU, citing free speech rights

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ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix. (Photo: The Republic)

An Arizona State University journalism student is suing the school after she says she was removed from leading the student-run radio station over a controversial tweet.

The lawsuit claims that the university violated Rae’Lee Klein’s First Amendment rights to free expression by refusing to allow her to continue as station manager of Blaze Radio because of her tweet.

The university, in a statement to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday, refuted that claim, saying, “Klein’s conduct in the aftermath of the tweet — rather than the tweet itself — meant that she was no longer able to perform the job for which she was hired.”

But Klein said she was first scolded about her tweet and later scolded for her media appearances and conversations with elected officials as her situation gained attention. 

“They were first upset by my free speech and now they’re upset that I’ve become this cause célèbre for free speech, so it’s just disappointing to see them keep taking the same stance and not want to work or correct the situation,” Klein told The Republic. 

Jack Wilenchik, Klein’s attorney, filed the complaint in U.S. District Court on Monday against ASU, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Kristin Gilger, Cronkite interim dean.

Klein faced swift backlash from within and outside her radio station after a tweet she posted in the aftermath of police shooting Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23. Klein shared a New York Post article with graphic details from a police report accusing Blake of sexual assault.

The Aug. 29 tweet, deleted later, was captioned, “Always more to the story, folks. Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be


How racism at the L.A. Times shaped my journalism career

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As a journalist and an academic, I am reluctant to write first-person pieces. However, as I read the mea culpa series concerning the Los Angeles Times’ history of racism in its coverage and hiring practices, I am compelled to tell my experience as someone who grew up reading the newpsaper, and someone who experienced its racism up close.

a close up of a book: A graphic in the June 12, 1981, edition of the L.A. Times, with a story that advanced racist attitudes about the city's Black and Latino communities. (Los Angeles Times)

© (Los Angeles Times)
A graphic in the June 12, 1981, edition of the L.A. Times, with a story that advanced racist attitudes about the city’s Black and Latino communities. (Los Angeles Times)

Journalism is in my blood. My father was the political cartoonist at the Los Angeles Sentinel, which for decades was the largest-circulated African American newspaper west of the Mississippi River. During his more than 40-year career, he was thrice named political cartoonist of the year by the National Newspaper Publishers Assn., the Black press trade group. Over the years, my father and The Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Paul Conrad, became friends.


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In high school I edited the campus paper and covered high school sports for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. I also wrote a weekly general interest column for the Sentinel. In college, I was managing editor of the paper at Los Angeles City College and went on the become a staff writer for the newspaper at Cal State Los Angeles. It was there that Paul Scott, the venerable journalism department chairman, recommended my employment at The Times and other Southern California newspapers. Scott had been highly successful at gaining reporting jobs for his top graduating students.

However, a few days before my graduation, Scott called me into his office to deliver the news that “no one wants a colored reporter.” In particular, the L.A. Times told him they “already had one.”

But my relationship with