Northwestern University’s Student Newspaper Misses the Whole Point of Journalism

Northwestern University’s Student Newspaper Misses the Whole Point of Journalism

Student newspaper apologizes for "re-traumatizing" fellow students by covering protesting.

At first, I thought it was a parody account when I saw the news that the Northwestern University’s school newspaper published an editorial apologizing for covering protests against a speech by Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But as I read on, I realized they were being serious.

For background, Sessions spoke at the university on the topic of Trump’s agenda, which led to a couple of protests by campus activist groups, one quite disruptive as the students tried to stop Sessions from speaking.  The campus newspaper sent reporters to cover the event and the protests and had the audacity to take photos of some of the protesters.

In other words, the campus newspaper covered the event like any other newspaper would have.  The staff posted some of the photos they took at the event to Twitter accounts, where some students found the pictures to be “retraumatizing and invasive.” The editors felt as if they had caused harm to some “marginalized groups”, abandoned all journalistic integrity and issued an apology for covering the event.

The use of the word, “retraumatizing”, leads me to believe the protesters were originally “traumatized” by the event they were protesting. A simple remedy to avoid that mind-numbing “trauma” would have been to just not attend the event, but they were so motivated to stop a differing opinion from being heard they felt it necessary to “traumatize” themselves.

Of course, by attending the protest, they opened themselves up to being photographed by the press, and in doing so, actually brought the “retraumatizing” on themselves as well.

Let me see if I can follow this type of logical thinking.  Someone with whom I disagree has been invited to speak at a function to people who may be genuinely interesting in hearing what they have to say. I don’t want to hear what they have to say, and I am so convinced that what they are going to say is wrong, even though I haven’t heard it, I intend to do all I can to prevent those who want to hear it from hearing it.

So, I go to an event that I did not wish to attend, and I become traumatized by being there. Someone took pictures of me protesting the event and posted them online and now I am retraumatized.

I’m sorry, but it seems to me that both traumatizing events were due to choices I made, first to attend the event and second to attract enough attention to get my picture taken, and not due to the words of the speaker that I didn’t wish to hear in the first place.  Sounds as if I brought this all on myself.

Now, I call the student newspaper asking for an apology for reporting on my actions that they simply recorded, which is actually the job of the press. And the press acquiesced, under the guise of not wanting to harm their fellow students and possibly their classmates.

But the most disturbing thought in the editorial and apology by the newspaper reads like this: “Any information The Daily provides about the protest can be used against the participating students — while some universities grant amnesty to student protesters, Northwestern does not. We did not want to play a role in any disciplinary action that could be taken by the University.”

In other words, although the students were participating in an act in violation of University policy, we don’t want to be the ones ratting them out. We want to assist them in getting away with their crime, or at least, not be the ones who expose them, because they may be our friends.

What if one of the student photographers captured a protester beating a fellow student to death?  Would the same logic apply?  I would hope for the sake of future journalism, these graduates would not allow themselves to be bullied into being afraid to report true news items, just to prevent the perpetrators or their friends from being “retraumatized.”

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