The student newspaper at Northwestern University apologized this week for covering a student protest of an appearance by Jeff Sessions. The apology was a terrible idea and the dean of the journalism school came out and said so yesterday. “Their well-intentioned gesture sends a chilling message about journalism and its role in society,” Dean Charles Whitaker wrote. He added, “It suggests that we are not independent authors of the community narrative, but are prone to bowing to the loudest and most influential voices in our orbit.” In other words, it’s not a good thing that the student paper got browbeaten into recanting by far left activists. That should have been the end of it, but today the NY Times published a piece which suggests the activists may have had a point. It’s titled “News or ‘Trauma Porn’? Student Journalists Face Blowback on Campus.”
The episode was the latest in a series of flare-ups on college campuses across the country, where shifting sensibilities and heightened criticism of the media have made the environment thornier for student journalists.
In interviews, some student journalists said they had addressed the clashes by adhering to what they described as core tenets of a free press. Others said they found themselves struggling to meet two dueling goals: responding to the changing expectations of the students they cover, particularly from those on the political left, while upholding widely accepted standards of journalism…
In a coffee shop in Evanston on Tuesday, Ms. Dai, 23, the student who had questioned Mr. Boyle’s photograph of her, said that she and other activists were trying to challenge journalistic norms and push for a more sensitive approach to reporting that considers the vulnerability of the people whose lives are portrayed.
“We weren’t there to get in the newspaper,” she said of the protest at the Sessions event. “We weren’t there to get national attention. People still hold dear that their journalistic duty is the most important thing, and that’s not the case.”
Related: Journalists Against Free Speech. From fellow Insta-co-blogger John Tierney at City Journal.