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Journalists are under no obligation to apologize for reporting

On Nov. 12, it came to light that editors at Northwestern University’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, apologized last Sunday for their coverage of student protesters.

Photo via Wikipedia Commons

The demonstrators were protesting an event hosted on campus by the College Republicans which featured former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The protesters, who were barred from attending the free event meant to focus on “the real meaning of the ‘Trump agenda,’” by campus police officers, shouted chants such as, “You are a racist; you put kids in cages.”

The Daily Northwestern reporters, doing what journalists do, posted photos of the protesters on social media and attempted to contact them using Northwestern’s directory. Several protesters saw these actions as invasive, prompting the apology issued by Troy Closson, the paper’s editor in chief, and signed by seven other editors.

“Some of our staff members who were covering the event used Northwestern’s directory to obtain phone numbers for students beforehand and texted them to ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed,” the apology said. “We recognize being contacted like this is an invasion of privacy, and we’ve spoken with those reporters — along with our entire staff — about the correct way to reach out to students for stories.”

The apology received almost immediate backlash from professional journalists across the country on social media. “This is called reporting. Why are you apologizing for it?” said Washington Post reporter Amy Brittain. Rosie Gray of Buzzfeed News said, “Re: Northwestern, isn’t their journalism program supposed to be one of the best in the country? What are they teaching them lol.” Matt Sebastian of The Denver Post said “The editors of Northwestern’s student newspaper are apologizing for doing journalism. This is deeply embarrassing.”

The Setonian wholeheartedly agrees with these reporters. Yes, arguably everyone learns from their mistakes, and the best time to make those mistakes is while you’re in college. But just because someone is in college doesn’t mean they aren’t subject to criticism. This was a major mess up on The Daily Northwestern’s part, and while I’m sure the editors will grow from it, their actions have real consequences.

The press is under attack now more than ever. With a president who constantly decries some of the most basic guaranteed rights of our Constitution, apologizing for the basics of newsgathering was quite frankly, not the move.

The Setonian’s reporters have also faced similar backlash from faculty and students alike for doing their jobs. So, we have a question for those people, the student protesters at Northwestern and the editors of The Daily Northwestern: how do you suggest reporters get in contact with sources?

The Voice is intended to best represent the collective opinion of The Editorial Board. It is written by The Setonian’s Editor-in-Chief.

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