Home Campus Speech Northwestern Student Editors Apologize for Reporting

Northwestern Student Editors Apologize for Reporting

Northwestern University’s campus newspaper is under fire for covering protests sparked by a campus visit from Jeff Sessions, former U.S. Attorney General. Student editors of The Daily Northwestern are receiving backlash for the paper simply doing its job: reporting the news.

What was the newspaper’s supposed offense? Sending reporters to cover Sessions’ speech and associated protests, and contacting participating students afterwards to get their take on the evening’s events. One of the reporters took pictures of the protestors, and later tweeted the images. Keep in mind these people were protesting in public.

According to the unfortunate apology released by The Daily Northwestern, the paper “did not want to play a role in any disciplinary action that could be taken by the university.” Additionally, staffers removed the pictures from Twitter and scrubbed the names from the article for the “privacy and safety” of the students.

Though perhaps well-intentioned, this is the wrong approach. Journalists need to be able to report the truth, even if that means highlighting both sides of an issue and invading the “privacy” of participants in a public protest. Both the student activists and reporters need to recognize the value and rights involved with freedom of the press.

We see free speech under attack at many colleges, but at a university with one of the top journalism schools in the country, this turn of events is especially concerning. With student reporters feeling like they can’t adequately and accurately portray the events happening on campus without backlash, freedom of the press is on the line.

The dean of Northwestern’s journalism school issued his own powerful statement which criticized the decision of the paper to retract its reporting and apologize but also recognized the challenges of community reporting. He also emphasized that the journalists themselves are still learning. We just hope this provides a larger “teaching moment” for budding journalists around the country about the critical role a free press plays in our democracy.

Must Read

The Global Implications of the Coronavirus Pandemic on a Free Press

Among the many victims of the coronavirus pandemic is a free press.  Make no mistake, the press is not in nearly as precarious a...

The Coronavirus:  Different Approaches to Informing the Public from Around the World, and the Ensuing Dangers

Update 2-29-20:   After the White House apparently muzzled Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leading government medical officials to avoid inconsistent messages about potential catastrophic...

Prager University v. Google

Amid all the rancor by presidential candidates, other politicians, and some of the public at large to regulate speech among social media outlets large...

Live from Moscow, It’s Radio Putin!

Written by Neil MacFarquhar and published in The New York Times: Playing on Kansas City Radio: Russian Propaganda Radio Sputnik, a propaganda arm of the Russian...

When Will John Bolton be Permitted to Speak

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has a story to tell.  His own story . . . about the delay in the delivery of...