Map of the USA

Building the United States of press freedom index

We’re rating press freedom across U.S. states and territories to make it useful and actionable for journalists in the field

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) USA and the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) are partnering to build a U.S. State Press Freedom Index. This new project will rate the press freedom records of all U.S. states and territories based on information gathered from working journalists and media experts around the country. If you are interested in helping shape this project, please sign up to participate

The World Press Freedom Index uses quantitative and qualitative research to formulate a ranking of countries and territories around the world from 1 to 180. We envision that this U.S. index will draw from similar data and assign each state a rating. These findings will be made available online as an interactive map, where clicking on each state gives detailed information of media freedom there. 

To create this, we will build the criteria for this rating system and formulate a survey that will be completed by working journalists and media experts in each state. The variables will include existing laws to protect journalists, attacks on or harassment of media, restrictions on access to public information and recent incidents in addition to other pertinent factors to make the ratings current for journalists. The ultimate objective is to create a resource that is constantly updated, useful and actionable for journalists to help them stay safe when in the field. 

Where we started

RSF’s World Press Freedom Index was launched in 2002 and annually ranks 180 countries and territories using quantitative and qualitative research..

A screenshot of the RSF World Press Freedom Index.
A screenshot of the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

The United States is ranked 45th in the World Press Freedom Index, but this does not take into account each state’s individual record. States vary greatly on their public information laws, journalism protections and the safety of media workers. RSF and RJI will convene a steering committee of experts to help develop the methodology for a rating system that will apply to every state.

As media outlets continue to lay off staff or shutter completely, the need for community news is more important than ever. This is especially true ahead of the 2024 elections, where access to accurate information will be tantamount. RSF and RJI expect to roll out a beta version of this tool ahead of November 2024.

As the first nationwide tracker, the U.S. State Press Freedom Index will be an actionable resource to help journalists perform their duties safely and with the latest knowledge on the press freedom status in their communities.

Sign up here to participate or keep informed about the Index.


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