The Daily Northwestern, the official campus newspaper of Northwestern University, recently apologized for covering a controversial event.
Not for promulgating fake news or printing biases, but for covering an on-campus event. In other words, The Daily Northwestern apologized for doing its job.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at the university last week drew a predictable amount of backlash from the student body. Like at most liberal-leanings campuses – which is to say, most campuses in general – Northwestern’s students were not happy to see an opposing viewpoint come to campus.
College Republicans invited Sessions to speak, and The Daily Northwestern understandably saw this as an event to cover – politics aside, Sessions is a high-profile public figure who has worked with the president of the United States, who is in turn one of the most powerful and influential people in the world. And, of course, Sessions’ appearance on campus would be even more newsworthy on account protests accompanying it.
So, like any news outlet would, The Daily Northwestern sent out three people to cover the event: one reporter to cover the speech, one to cover the protestors, and one to photograph the scene as a whole.
There was plenty to write about and photograph, so write about it and photograph it, they did. Then, The Daily Northwestern committed the sin of publishing their coverage of the event in the paper.
The backlash sprung from the paper’s audacity to print the names of protestors they quoted in their article and include pictures of their faces. Additionally, staffers of The Daily Northwestern, using the campus directory open to all students, texted some of the protesting students before the event, asking if they could interview them, which some students found invasive.
There isn’t anything wrong with any of this, of course, but Northwestern students complained anyway, calling it an invasion of privacy for their names and faces to be printed.
Amidst this backlash, the staff of the paper decided to publish an article apologizing for the way it had previously covered the protests. In it, they speak of the photographs being posted on Twitter as “retraumatizing and invasive.” They call Sessions’ visit to the campus a “distressing experience,” and acknowledge the “potential harm our news coverage may cause.”
There’s just one problem – the students who protested Sessions’ speech chose to do so. Those who screamed and cried and banged on doors chose to do so. The protesting students are rational, thinking adults entirely aware of the fact that their actions were public ones – it is in the very nature of protests to be public, and for students to pretend otherwise is dishonest.
Maybe, if they’re so afraid of their actions being seen by the world, students should reconsider what they give the world to see.
Ruth Moreno is an editorial Contributor to TheRichValdes.com