Evidence of Political Pressure in Firing of West Va. Radio ReporterBreaking News
tags: media, journalism, West Virginia, Free Press, political media
Late last fall, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Amelia Ferrell Knisely reported one story after another about allegations that people with disabilities were abused in facilities run by the state.
The state agency Knisely was covering demanded that one of her key stories be fully retracted. While her coverage remains on West Virginia Public Broadcasting's website, Knisely is gone. She says she was told the decision came from the station's chief executive.
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.
"We all knew that our jobs could go at any moment if politicians fought that hard enough," says former West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter and producer Roxy Todd. "Gov. Justice's presence was always looming over us."
Since 2017, politicians have sought to eliminate state funding. The governor appointed partisans hostile to public broadcasting to key oversight positions. And the station's chief executive has intervened repeatedly in journalistic decisions.
Knisely's dismissal was first reported by Steven Allen Adams, the state government reporter for Ogden Newspapers, in late December. "This reporting focused on some of the most vulnerable people who are in state-run facilities," Knisely tweeted about her stories.
"I am deeply concerned about the state of WV media," Knisely later posted. "It is our job as reporters to watch & report on decision makers. In our state, one of the poorest, not everyone can drive to the Capitol where decisions are being made. Not everyone has internet access to stream meetings."