Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Daily Northwestern Apologizes for Accuracy

Daily Northwestern Apologizes for Accuracy
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 13, 2019

If journalism has been dying a slow and painful death over the past couple decades, the student newspaper at Northwestern University just slammed the last nail into the coffin. Apparently the most egregious act The Daily Northwestern committed in recent days was to apologize for doing its job - and doing it well.

Former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech on the Northwestern campus in Evanston, IL on Tuesday, November 5 at the behest of the College Republicans. Met by both students interested in hearing what Sessions had to say as well as those whose presence was only an attempt to prevent the speech from occurring, the student-run campus newspaper certainly had plenty about which to report. 

Amazingly, Northwestern University reporter Daisy Conant did just that - she reported what she saw and heard that evening. Sessions did, in fact, speak, at Lutkin Hall - “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda,” the title of his prepared remarks. Conant noted the content of Sessions’ speech, the vulgarities spewed at Sessions by the protesters attempting to gain access to Lutkin Hall, which had security to prevent any out of hand and illegal behavior. Conant did her job rather well in covering the event, compete with quotes from several students who attended Sessions’ speech and subsequent question and answer session.

Medill School of Journalism freshman Margaret Fleming attended the event with an open mind. “It’s hard because the people who I hold the same political views with are the ones protesting,” said Fleming. She added that a speaking event held by the College Democrats earlier in the semester did not produce the same belligerence and bellicosity. That is typically the case, as conservatives support the First Amendment, while far too many liberals and progressives are on record in a number of recent polls calling for the First Amendment to be rewritten limiting free speech - a dangerous road to travel.

After an accurate article appeared in The Daily Northwestern, complete with photographs of the event both inside and outside of Lutkin Hall, is when the snowflake brigade became apoplectic and outraged - not by any inaccuracies in the article, but because the article and photos were accurate. Apparently the truth hurts. So much so, the student newspaper actually apologized.

Apologized for what? For doing its job? For writing accurate copy? For publishing pictures depicting the events as they actually happened during the Sessions visit? This genuinely seems like the tail wagging the dog.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring that our fellow students feel safe… we failed to do that last week, and we could not be more sorry,” wrote the editors of the paper in their apology delivered from their knees. That is not the responsibility of a newspaper - protecting its subjects, instead the job is to reveal the actions and the words of those subjects - informing the greater public of events to which they themselves were not personally privy. The apology editorial called the Sessions visit a “traumatic event.” Who was traumatized? And how?

A myriad protesters objected to their pictures being in the newspaper; calling it an invasion of their privacy. Theirs was a public protest, where there is no expectation of privacy whatsoever. The protesters must bear responsibility for their own actions. Other protesters objected to reporters using the Northwestern student directory to contact them and interview them about the event and their role in it. That is the job of a reporter.

“Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Photos have been taken down,” continued the apology editorial. The paper continued its genuflecting apology for using the student directory “to obtain phone numbers for students, texted them to ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed. We recognize being contacted like this is an invasion of privacy, and we’ve spoken to those reporters - along with our entire staff - and about the correct way to reach out to students for stories.” 

Take the word of a veteran newspaper reporter/journalist: the way those Northwestern students tackled their task of garnering comments for their article was spot on. Nothing wrong with their methods. Not one student was forced to consent to an interview, nor are they required to do so at any time. Once again, and this must be stressed, with their contact information in the student directory, students in no way should have any level of an expectation of privacy.

The apology issued by the editors of The Daily Northwestern should never have been written or published.  If anything, the editors should have doubled-down and defended its reporters.This weak-kneed admission of guilt or some sense of seeking absolution from the student body had no place in theirs, or any other newspaper. If this is the direction of the future of “journalism,” may G-d help the United States. Readers will never again be able to trust what they read for the reporters may be protecting someone’s delicate sensibilities.

If reporters and journalists are going to be censored in what they can and cannot write and print based upon a level of hurt feelings, or whether or not their language is incendiary to even one potential reader, the profession cannot survive. Additionally, a petition signed by roughly 650 students condemning The Daily Northwestern, “for choosing to put our students in jeopardy.” How exactly did a newspaper article and photos of a public event put anyone in jeopardy?

Northwestern is not the only campus with a student body possessing a collective weak stomach for attempts at truthful reporting. Harvard’s Student Government Association took umbrage with, and condemned its own student newspaper, for simply attempting to elicit a comment from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on a story. Unbelievable, a reporter actually doing his or her due diligence. The condemnation came just for the attempt to contact. No endorsement of ICE appeared in the newspaper.

Furthermore, half of millennials believe so-called “hate speech” should be criminalized and punishable. Let’s contemplate that chilling notion. Who will determine what hate speech is? If person A decides what person B says is hateful, should person B be hauled away and jailed with the possibility of losing one’s livelihood? And what happens the next day when person C decides what person A said is hateful. Will he or she end up sharing a cell with person B? Where does it end? The answer to hate speech is not less speech, but more speech.

In a most dangerous possibility, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and one of the cast of thousands seeking the Democrat nomination for president, called “hate speech a threat to our democracy,” and has demanded that President Donald Trump be banned from Twitter and his account suspended. Regardless of who one supports for president in 2020 or any other year, that is a frightening notion coming from someone who wants to be president. People of all political persuasions must stand up and loudly shout NO to Harris. She attempted to cajole Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to join her on a recent debate stage in calling for Trump’s suspension from Twitter, but Warren refused to take the bait. Harris’ idea is the true threat to our democracy.

“The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by a despotic government.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” - Thomas Jefferson

“The philosophy of the classroom today, will be the government of tomorrow.” - Abraham Lincoln.

With the horrifying levels of indoctrination on college campuses, the safe spaces, the free speech zones, and the abject political correctness that, for one, will eventually destroy women’s sports as it is known today, a level headed individual not afraid to speak out for fear of retribution or a lost job is vital as this nation goes to the polls to elect a president in less than a year.

Couple the above and Lincoln’s genius with that of Ronald Reagan. “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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