On Monday, Nov. 11, The Daily Northwestern published a staff editorial regarding their coverage of a protest to a visit from former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Nov. 5.
In the editorial, The Daily says they sent a reporter to talk to protesters and a photographer to take photos of the event. Additionally, they used a Northwestern University directory to obtain phone numbers to contact students before the event to ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed.
The editorial apologizes for the decisions made by staff of The Daily, saying they failed to “consider our impact in our reporting surrounding Jeff Sessions.” They said their photos of the event “harmed many students” and that contacting students through the directory was “an invasion of privacy”.
The Daily’s editorial goes on to say staff members have discussed how they will report on sensitive topics, including protests, from this point forward. Ultimately, The Daily goes on to apologize for the choices they made during the Jeff Sessions event and subsequent protest.
While the editorial brought up many questions in The Nevada Sagebrush newsroom, one thing was agreed upon: The Daily Northwestern did not break normal reporting conduct and we likely would have done the same thing. Therefore, we would not have issued the same editorial if we were in their place.
However, we were not in their place and we don’t fully know the thought process beside the decision to go forward with the editorial. Additionally, we have not been able to locate the original coverage or the photos.
But what we have seen is the hysteria that followed suit—an excessive amount of professional journalists tweeting about the editorial and the newspaper’s decision to remove the story, and did not do so very kindly. From saying that The Daily Northwestern shouldn’t have apologized for their reporting to comments about the reporters prioritizing the feelings of the protestors rather than informing the public of the events that transpired.
This act is inherently counterproductive to the goals the journalism industry should be striving toward, including teaching the next generation of journalists how to handle these types of ethical conflicts. Twitter encourages public discourse and discussion, but tearing student journalists down for learning something the hard way is not what they needed.
Student journalists are just that: students and journalists. Student-run newspapers are covering the hyper-local community. Student journalists are journalists and cover their campus communities more in-depth than any other newspaper can. The reporters know these communities better than anyone and are often reporting on policies that directly affect them or stories about their own classmates and peers.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue or your thoughts of the content of the editorial, The Nevada Sagebrush stands with student journalists—from The Daily Northwestern and beyond. Bullying student journalists on a public platform is inherently counterproductive in an industry that needs solidarity more now than ever.
The Nevada Sagebrush staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.