We’ve talked a lot about the death of journalism, observable in slow motion by watching any of the cable news channels or reading any of the major daily newspapers in the U.S. these days. But the rot that has infected those corporate behemoths has now seeped into the very fundamentals of journalism itself, and there may be no turning back.
On Sunday, the Northwestern Daily – the student newspaper of Northwestern University – issued one of the most pathetic apologies we’ve ever seen in newsprint.
“Last week, The Daily was not the paper that Northwestern students deserve,” wrote the editorial staff of the paper. “On Nov. 5, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke on campus at a Northwestern University College Republicans event. The Daily sent a reporter to cover that talk and another to cover the students protesting his invitation to campus, along with a photographer. We recognize that we contributed to the harm students experienced, and we wanted to apologize for and address the mistakes that we made that night — along with how we plan to move forward.”
First of all, “harm” is not caused by a former government employee speaking at an event in which there is no mandate whatsoever for anyone to attend.
Second, these protesters chose to go to the event to make their voices heard, which makes them fair game for a news story involving them.
Third, any student who did not wish to speak with The Daily’s reporters could have easily said as much.
Finally, any journalist who thinks it is their responsibility to protect (eyeroll) marginalized students and that this responsibility eclipses the basic fundamental purpose of reporting is hopelessly lost.
The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern has been an acclaimed college for as long as we can remember, but if this is the nu-thought that controls the direction of that school, then graduating students deserve a refund.
“One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event,” the apology continues. “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down. On one hand, as the paper of record for Northwestern, we want to ensure students, administrators and alumni understand the gravity of the events that took place Tuesday night. However, we decided to prioritize the trust and safety of students who were photographed. We feel that covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories.”
Protesting Jeff Sessions is a “traumatic event”? Seriously?
While there’s some minor comfort to be found in the comments posted to The Daily’s apology, we’ve long known that these snowflakes represent an intense-but-small minority of young people. Unfortunately, their intensity and their refusal to stand for being “offended” gives them unearned power over institutions that should really know better. And until these institutions take back their power and begin ignoring fragile Gen Zers who think that being photographed in a public place is akin to a violent assault, the First Amendment is in grave jeopardy.