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U of I’s Annual Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium Will Explore Freedom of the Press in Indian Country

MOSCOW, Idaho — March 25, 2024 — Documentary filmmakers Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler, who co-directed the award-winning film “Bad Press,” will be the keynote speakers for University of Idaho’s annual Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium.


The film will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, 508 S. Main St. in Moscow. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers and tribal journalist Angel Ellis. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the Indigenous Journalists Association.

The documentary focuses on Ellis’ fight to restore guarantees of freedom of the press within her tribe after the Muscogee Nation’s government repealed its landmark Free Press Act in 2018. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023 and won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression. 

“Access to accurate and ethical reporting about Indigenous people and communities is necessary to overcome biases and stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media,” Landsberry-Baker said. “Accurate news and information are essential to an educated citizenry and healthy democracy. ‘Bad Press’ tells the story of my fellow Muscogee citizens exercising tribal sovereignty by holding elected officials to account and participating in the elections process.” 

Earlier that day, Landsberry-Baker, executive director of the Indigenous Journalists Association, will lead a panel discussion with representatives of Inland Northwest tribes. That session will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Whitewater Room at the Idaho Student Union Building, as part of the Malcolm Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium.

“All Americans — not just residents of sovereign tribal nations — have a stake in the ability of journalists to cover tribal, state and national issues,” said Kenton Bird, co-founder of the Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium and a professor emeritus in the U of I School of Journalism and Mass Media. “We can’t ignore restrictions on journalists, even if we don’t see their coverage on a regular basis.”

Since 2011, the symposium, sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Media, has brought nationally recognized journalists and media professionals to U of I. This is the first time the symposium will discuss ethical issues in documentary filmmaking. 

“Documentary films have long been an important medium of ethics and accountability, and ‘Bad Press’ continues that tradition,” said Russ Meeuf, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media. “I’m excited for this year’s symposium to facilitate a discussion of press freedom but also to showcase a powerful work of documentary storytelling.”

The Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium’s goal is to promote professional responsibility and ethical behavior by journalists and other media professionals. The symposium is supported by U of I graduates Doug and Arthur “Skip” Oppenheimer of Boise, with additional support from the U of I Tribal Liaison Office, the Moscow Human Rights Commission and Idaho Public Television.


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