The Corner

Culture

Salt the Daily Northwestern

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Northwestern University’s student newspaper is a national embarrassment:

On Sunday, Northwestern University’s student newspaper published an editorial apologizing for “mistakes” the staff said it had made while covering two protests during former attorney general Jeff Sessions’s visit to campus on Nov. 5.

Those errors?

Tweeting out photos of students protesting Sessions and later using a campus directory to call some of those demonstrators for interviews.

“We recognize that we contributed to the harm students experienced, and we wanted to apologize for and address the mistakes that we made that night,” the Daily Northwestern’s editorial board wrote. “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down.”

The apology contains all the usual buzzwords that mark out your average capitulation to the insane and the brittle: “harm”; “retraumatizing”; “safety”; “invasion”; “marginalized”; along with the customary promise that everyone implicated will visit the nearest re-education camp tout suite. It’s dreck from start to finish, and everyone involved with it should be severely ashamed.

Are they? Presumably not, given that they’re still making their case.

It is beyond my comprehension that anyone who participated was able keep a straight face while writing it, let alone that they consented to have their name glued to the thing for eternity. Just look at it. “One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event.” What? “Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive.” How? “We feel that covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories.” It was a milquetoast speech, not D-Day. “Some students also voiced concern about the methods that Daily staffers used to reach out to them.” They used the bloody phone book. ” We understand that this will not be easy, but we are ready to undertake the reform and reflection necessary to become a better paper.” Impossible. The only way to improve the paper is to fire everyone involved and bomb the building from the upper atmosphere.

Satire is dead.

The aim of a newspaper — and of its employees — should be to report the news without fear or favor. In practice, this will never be done perfectly. Writers have biases, both conscious and unconscious; the information at hand is not always complete; limited space mandates subjective editorial decision-making; and so on. But if those involved are so craven and so obsequious that they happily beat themselves with birch twigs at the first sign of irritation or dissent, then they have no chance at getting close to performing their roles. The Northwestern Daily is no longer a newspaper; it’s a parable.

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