Center for Media at Risk

Center for Media at Risk, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania


Toward a Free and Critical Media Environment

The Center for Media at Risk, which will be launching in Spring 2018, is devoted to fostering free and critical media practice and scholarship. Political intimidation threatens media practitioners worldwide, while disinformation campaigns destabilize public trust. The Center will provide a hub for practical and scholarly discussions of the global media environment and how its practitioners work under threatening political conditions.

Its aims include:

  1. to enhance dialogue about a free media environment and foster its critical study;
  2. to promote awareness about safety for journalists, photojournalists, videographers, filmmakers and digital content producers and cultivate greater public understanding of the increasingly difficult conditions under which media practitioners work;
  3. to create opportunities for media practitioners and scholars to articulate, anticipate and offset the risks arising from threatening political conditions;
  4. to support associations and organizations dedicated to protecting and fostering free and critical discourse in, of and about the media environment.

Modeled in part on the Scholars At Risk network and in part on the successful 12-year run of the Annenberg Scholars Program in Culture and Communication, the Center, under the leadership of Raymond Williams Professor of Communication Barbie Zelizer, herself a former journalist, will coordinate its activities across three sources of partners and affiliates:

  • a network of centers and programs at Penn;
  • a network of global institutions of higher education invested in critical media scholarship, much of it already in place from the Scholars Program; 
  • a network of media associations and organizations, invested in the free flow of information worldwide.

The Center will house visiting media practitioners and scholars involved with or affected by risk; hold lectures, symposia and other public events in response to emerging risks to the free flow of information; conduct pedagogical programs to examine aspects of risk in particular locations; provide scholarly opportunities for faculty and students across the disciplines at Penn and at other institutions who seek to address problems with the free flow of information in the current media environment.

A Free and Critical Media Environment requires ongoing critical address to the political conditions that challenge its viability. With the help of its affiliates, the Center aims to provide a global platform for tracking these conditions in the various forms that they take worldwide.

For more information, please contact Barbie Zelizer at or Center Coordinator Emily Plowman at