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Bizarre editorial from the Northwestern student newspaper

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Nov 11, 2019.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Another good column in the Chicago Tribune:

    Column: The apologetic editorial in Northwestern’s student newspaper reveals an issue most black journalists face

    “The bottom line is that Closson was forced to answer the question nearly every black journalist has been asked at one time or another in their career: “Are you black first or are you a journalist first?”

    “The question doesn’t always come from the outside. Sometimes it comes from within. Regardless, there is only one correct answer.

    “We are journalists. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should lose sight of who we are as individuals. Experience gives every journalist, regardless of race, the tools we need to better navigate the delicate journey between our work and our individuality.

    “As African Americans, we perform our jobs as vigorously as our white counterparts, without losing sight of the subtle and sometimes intangible cultural undercurrents that often lie beneath the surface of complicated news stories. These are assets that our race affords us.

    “Closson was a black student in a powerful position, directing the coverage of one of the biggest news events to take place on campus. And to do the job well, he had to put other students of color in jeopardy of being reprimanded by the university. His initial instinct was correct.”
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Only black journalists have been asked that? Not Latino journalists? Asian? Women? Gay?

    That line of thinking is contrived and non-apology apologetic at that.
    fossywriter8 likes this.
  3. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    The columnist was black and was speaking from a position of experience and authority.

    I would imagine other journalists may ask similar questions.

    Given that American progressives push and fully embrace identity-first living, I imagine it’s a question every journalist who’s not a WSM has the near-imperative to ask.

    When the revolution comes, were you on the right or wrong side of history? That kind of thing. Journalism gets smashed up in that process.
  4. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I still think the question is a non-sequitur.
  5. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    It’s central to this situation. If the protesters had been conservative students disrupting a progressive speaker, not only is there no apology but I suspect a editorial condemning the conservative students for traumatizing attendees in their chosen space, in clear violation of university policy.
  6. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    This, Alma,

    “The bottom line is that Closson was forced to answer the question nearly every black journalist has been asked at one time or another in their career: “Are you black first or are you a journalist first?”
  7. PaperClip529

    PaperClip529 Active Member

    What you think about this topic is irrelevant.
  8. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    It might be prudent to think about how students (and others) are taught about their rights in public vs. private situations. There seems to be some misunderstanding about what constitutes a public act and how that decreases the level of privacy to which people are legally or otherwise guaranteed.

    Do something at a public event and you’re fair game when it comes to spreading of information.

    Post something on social media and you’ve published that information.

    Folks don’t seem to understand what is a public record and what is not.
    Doc Holliday and HanSenSE like this.
  9. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I've talked to a few people in recent days about this, several who have some insider knowledge of what went down, and of course it's more nuanced than the "Fuck the snowflakes of the woke left!" and "What kind of journalists are we raising????" crowd.

    Some points to consider...

    1. A bunch of the staff of the Northwestern Daily aren't actual Medill students. Someone I spoke with pegged it at about half. The kids who are in the school of journalism are livid that the paper is being equated with the journalism school. I am curious where the faculty advisor -- assuming there is one -- was in this instance. Maybe the EIC didn't reach out to him/her before publishing that editorial, but damn, this seems exactly like the entire reason you'd have a faculty advisor.

    2. A huge portion of the kids contacted were upset that their contact information was available in a public database, which is actually a rarity for universities these days because of liability concerns, stalkers, etc. My girlfriend is the VP of student affairs at small university and she couldn't believe Northwestern has a database (or student directory) of students info because that's completely abnormal these days for colleges and universities. She thinks a lot of the kids likely didn't read the fine print of something, just dashed their signatures on some form without reading it, which made their information available.

    3. Saying the "protest" was public was a bit misleading. All of Northwestern is considered private property, and the students (according to school policy) could be subject to discipline, including expulsion, for protesting Sessions speech, something that the president confirmed in the NYT story about it. I can see why that would lead to some anxiety. Some of these same kids were apparently part of a Black Lives Matter group that received death threats when their images and information was previously circulated.

    I thought the dean's comment struck the perfect tone. The editorial was well-intentioned, but not keeping with the values of actual journalism.

    The reason I wrote the Twitter thread that I did, which Alma quickly dismissed as having nothing to do with the issue, is I think we need to do a better job as journalists of explaining why what we do can be important, and why it can have an impact that's positive even when it seems, to some, like we're vultures. There is an extremely well-funded machine working constantly to demonize journalists, convince people we're scum, and we rarely explain why we have to do things like make difficult calls to people who -- one would assume -- don't want to talk.

    Journalists are going to screw up, particularly when they're young and acting on emotion without great guidance. And in truth, there are a lot of people out there yearning to show others how they've been (in their opinion) wronged because they otherwise feel powerless. There are certainly aspects of snowflake culture that I find annoying, but often using that phrase just means you have very little empathy because you never feel threatened or marginalized in your own life. I don't know about you, but if I wrote something that got a kid kicked out of Northwestern for protesting Jeff Sessions, I might feel like I was sound journalistically and like I'd failed on a very human level. You can crow about how you wouldn't give a shit, that maybe they shouldn't have been protesting in the first place, but that's of little comfort to the kid who got expelled for the protest. The point isn't to ignore journalism, it's to think deeply about it while practicing it.

    Professional journalists who used this incident as an opportunity to shout "Woe is the future of the profession!" aren't actually concerned about future journalists, they're mostly doing it because it elevates their own hard-won wisdom and status. If they were really concerned about the future of the profession, they'd offer to mentor more young journalists and let me tell you from experience, as a occasional college professor, the percentage of professionals willing to genuinely mentor is tiny. It's so much easier to dash off a condescending tweet decrying where we're headed.

    I did a lot of stupid shit in college at my newspaper. We were having fun! Who gave a shit about the stuffy rules? The best comment I've heard about Deadspin, of late, is they wanted to work at the college newspaper forever. (Maybe it was here on SJ?) The difference is, when I did some dumb shit, it wasn't the topic de jour on Twitter. I can't imagine how mortified I'd have been, at 20, if Rick Reilly or Gary Smith or Rick Telander had teed up something I'd done for their thousands of followers.
    swingline, MeanGreenATO and Cosmo like this.
  10. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I remember going to murder scenes and before evening opening the notebook thinking, Am I a Jew first or a journalist first? lol
  11. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    It's always journalist first. He's young, he learned a hard lesson. He'll either leave journalism because it conflicts too much with his personal views or he'll get it right next time. Great teaching moment. It doesn't matter who is involved, black, white, whatever. What matters is getting the story right.
  12. justgladtobehere

    justgladtobehere Well-Known Member

    On the topic of identity among journalists, Jay Caspian Kang wrote about Andrew Yang's identity.

    Andrew Yang Knows How to Fit In. Somehow That’s Making Him an Outlier.

    I don't want to misquote so:
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