Northwestern University is one of the top schools in the country. It has a renowned journalism program along with a professional newspaper. With a staggeringly low acceptance rate and a tremendous report card, this school educates the cream of the crop. It’s no question these kids are smart and well-educated, but they apparently lack common sense.
On November 5th, 2019, former general attorney Jeff Sessions spoke to the Northwestern University College Republicans. Outside of the venue, many students gathered and protested his attendance. In addition, a large protest group attempted to storm the hall. The Daily Northwestern covered the protests and took photos of the event in action.
Immediately, there was backlash from the students. The Daily Northwestern quickly issued an apology, saying that they should not have contacted students for interviews via the school directory. They also apologized for publishing photos of the occurrence. In almost noÂ time, professional journalists reached out over social media claiming that the paper was not wrong to cover all the aspects of the event, and it was just standard journalistic procedure.
So if the Northwestern Daily was just following suit, what made the students react so severely? Where in this publication did the students feel hurt? Where does being mindful lead to censorship? If the reporters contacted them via the student directory, this was an accessible and moral way to interact with them. Taking pictures of an important protest on campus should be documented. If these top-of-the-class students do not yet understand basic journalism etiquette, how will we cover national or world issues?
Students should be able to understand that if they are contacted in a practical manner, it is not a personal attack nor is it a way to discipline the protesters. If a group of students are trying to interrupt a scheduled event, then it is within reason to show footage. And if a student did not want to be recognized in the first place, then the purpose of showing up in unanimity has been defeated.
The Daily Northwestern’s journalism practices should remain the way they are and avoid censorship, even if it means that complaints will arise.