When progressives lose the Harvard Crimson … The student newspaper issued a spirited defense after a dispute over a simple, basic act of journalism escalated into a boycott movement. After covering a rally by the group Act on a Dream and their demands to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement last month, the Crimson contacted ICE for comment on the rally.
For some reason, that “proved controversial with many of our readers.” It did? No really, it did, as Act on a Dream accused the newspaper of threatening the welfare of Harvard students … for asking ICE for a comment after the demonstration:
More than 650 people have signed onto an online petition condemning The Harvard Crimson’s coverage of a protest demanding the abolition of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The petition — started by student-led immigration advocacy group Act on a Dream earlier this month — criticizes The Crimson for requesting comment from an ICE spokesperson for its Sept. 13 article, “Harvard Affiliates Rally for Abolish ICE Movement.” The article covers a Sept. 12 protest hosted by Act on a Dream and quotes several students’ criticisms of ICE, including calls for its dissolution. The article notes that ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“In this political climate, a request for comment is virtually the same as tipping [ICE] off, regardless of how they are contacted,” the petition reads. “The Crimson, as a student-run publication, has a responsibility to prioritize the safety of the student body they are reporting on — they must reexamine and interrogate policies that place students under threat.”
Tipping them off to what, exactly? By that logic, the newspaper shouldn’t have even reported on the demonstration. Why, that might have “tipped” off ICE that it took place!
This illogical complaint would get laughed out of an average high-school logic class, but not at Hahvahd. Ten other campus groups joined the petition by Act on a Dream demanding that the Crimson stop contacting ICE and presumably every other bete noire against which they protest on campus for a normal opportunity to defend themselves in the media. The petition demands that the Crimson not only change its policies but also “apologize for “the harm they inflicted” on undocumented students, and declare a commitment to protecting undocumented students on campus.” These groups have now launched a boycott of the student newspaper to demand that they comply with their agenda.
To the credit of the Crimson and its current leadership, the newspaper published an editorial yesterday politely telling the woke brigade to go pound sand. Their mission is journalism, wrote president Kristine Guillaume and managing editor Angela Fu, and they have no interest in acting as the mere mouthpiece for thuggish groups:
At stake here, we believe, is one of the core tenets that defines America’s free and independent press: the right — and prerogative — of reporters to contact any person or organization relevant to a story to seek that entity’s comment and view of what transpired. This ensures the article is as thorough, balanced, and unbiased toward any particular viewpoint as possible. A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources — a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage — is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world.
Experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists have affirmed that The Crimson followed ethical journalistic practices in its reporting in this case and that its request for comment did not place any person in harm’s way. The SPJ Code of Ethics states that journalists should “diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticisms or allegations of wrongdoing.”
We understand that some readers may disagree with The Crimson’s policies. But our mission is facts, truth, narrative, and understanding. In our view, consistent application of a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards is the best way to fairly report on the campus in a sensitive and thorough manner.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, at least a couple of their reporters haven’t learned their Journalism 101 lessons:
But some of the Crimson’s own staff have joined in the calls to stop contacting ICE for any story. Emily Romero, an associate editorial editor for the paper who says she is undocumented, tweeted her support of the protests and wrote that “it pains me to feel unsafe in the building I have devoted countless hours to.”
Another member of the editorial staff, Jessenia Class, wrote on Twitter that the paper’s decision to continue reaching out to the subjects of stories for comment was disappointing and “antithetical to our journalistic values of reporting with sensitivity.”
Anyone who believes that reaching out for comment from parties substantially involved in a factually reported story is “antithetical to our journalistic values” is someone without any journalistic values at all. Journalism involves reporting the facts of events and providing as much context as possible. “Reporting with sensitivity” is narrative-building, serving a cause, not journalism. As far as “feel[ing] unsafe in the building,” that’s a product of the reporter’s own status, not any action of the newspaper and certainly has nothing to do with journalistic values and practices. It speaks to a personal bias that doesn’t belong in the news section, although to be fair Romero works on the opinion pages.
One would think those students who manage to get admitted to Harvard could easily grasp the points Guillaume and Fu have made. Perhaps a new requirement for remedial logic should be added to the curriculum. In the meantime, the best way to make these groups happy is to simply stop reporting on their events at all, except to the extent that they do damage or run riot. That ought to make these activists feel “safe,” and perhaps teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them, too.