The Daily Northwestern's Apology Shows the Activist Threat to Student Journalism

A New York Times reporter says "the situation was way more complicated than it first appeared." No, it wasn't.


The wheel of outrage spins so fast these days it's difficult to keep up. While some readers may be just learning about The Daily Northwestern's capitulation to activist students who said its coverage harmed them, the media has already moved on to the backlash to the backlash.

Earlier this week, Northwestern University's student paper ran an editorial apologizing to student-activists for the way reporters covered a campus visit by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Activists had claimed that the coverage undermined their safety, and that pictures of protesters violating campus policies—like trying to break into the event space and quarreling with police—could get them in trouble.

"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 paper's editor wrote.

This prompted tons of criticism. Charles Whitaker, dean of Northwestern's famed Medill School of Journalism, called the editorial "heartfelt though not well-considered" and likely to send a chilling message. On social media, many professional journalists piled on.

That, in turn, prompted criticism from those who thought the initial criticizers should leave the kids alone. Cue The Outline's Jeremy Gordon, who decreed that "If you're over the age of 23, you're not allowed to care what college kids are doing." He also criticized a whole host of people—including "Robby Soave, a staff writer at provocative centrist website Reason"—for doing just that.

"There's nothing more that a certain huffy kind of journalist loves than to lazily extol the vague virtues of Journalism as a life calling over the specific concerns that prevent actual journalism from being done," he wrote.

It's true that The Daily Northwestern arguably received more opprobrium than was merited—alas, it is impossible to correctly calibrate the anger machine on Twitter—and that college-aged journalists are bound to make mistakes. They shouldn't be held to the impossible standard of getting it right every time, especially when professional journalists can't meet that standard ourselves.

But the backlash-to-the-backlash crowd also seems determined to defend the apology itself. Tacitly, they give power to the activists who say journalists should do their bidding.

The best example of this is a piece in The New York Times: "News or 'Trauma Porn'? Student Journalists Face Blowback on Campus." One of its three authors, Julie Bosman, previewed it on Twitter with this comment:

Contrary to what Bosman claimed, the story is not more complicated than it first appeared. Indeed, it's exactly what it appeared: Some student activists said that the standard practices of The Daily Northwestern's reporters and photographers hurt their feelings, undermined their goals, and put them at risk of punishment.

One of the irate protesters told the Times: "We weren't there to get in the newspaper. We weren't there to get national attention. People still hold dear that their journalistic duty is the most important thing, and that's not the case." On Twitter, activists complained that journalism "only serves power" and is illegitimate unless practiced in a manner that serves the activist cause.

The Times also reflected on a related controversy at Harvard, where activists have called for a boycott of The Harvard Crimson because it follows the standard journalistic practice of asking the subjects of stories for quotes, even if the subject is an organization the activists don't like:

And there has been dissent within The Crimson. Danu Mudannayake, 21, a senior who is an illustrator at the paper, said in an interview, "We just internally want to see more done to address the concerns on campus and not uphold this quite cold front that 'We are a newspaper at the end of the day, and that is before anything else.'"

She suggested that the era called for a different kind of journalism, particularly for student journalists.

"We can still be serious student journalists, but still have more empathy," she said. "I think the question of empathetic journalism is, at least for us on the inside, what's at the heart of it."

Mudannayake was one of the leaders of the protest against Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, who was branded "deeply trauma-inducing" for agreeing to represent accused sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein.

The initial concern of those who reacted negatively to the Daily Northwestern editorial is that student journalists feel pressured to compromise their editorial integrity in order to appease an activist agenda. That's a legitimate concern, and it's really not "way more complicated."

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  1. The threat to student journalism is not activists. The threat to student journalism is that the student journalists accept the activist’s premises and hence have no argument or integrity for defending journalistic principles. The problem is internal.

    1. Yes indeed, if you take the ideal journalist (not to be confused with an actual journalist), (s)he would be cheered to provoke this sort of criticism.

      I can see a different sort of apology:

      “Gosh, we’re *so sorry* that there were witnesses to you violating campus rules and regulations in a public place, even though those witnesses were only trying to report the facts, not prosecute you. I know how much easier it would be for you to get away with your behavior if university authorities weren’t able to identify you.”

      1. Facts are just patriarchal oppression!

        1. Hearsay is much better.

  2. It’s not just student activism that is threatened… it’s the relaying “credible” accusations from anonymous sources robby.

  3. >>Activists had claimed that the coverage undermined their safety

    poor kids! they know he’s not a real general, yo?

    1. Here’s one thing a safety-conscious person can do: Obey campus rules. You’re not 100% safe if you do that – nobody is – but on one specific issue – getting disciplined by the college – you reduce your risks.

  4. “Robby Soave, a staff writer at provocative centrist website Reason”

    Centrist? Did I not get the memo?

    1. Well, from a left-right dichotomy perspective, that is accurate. Even though ranks Reason as center-right.

      1. I would personally rank Reason in the recent years as slightly left. Partially because Reason has moved a little left, but largely because the Overton window is currently screaming Westward at the speed of light.

        Back in the olden days of Reason, they were probably center right on a number of issues, and somewhat left on a few social issues.

        1. I re-read my comment and it didn’t quite make sense. To be clear, Reason has moved left, but not that far to the left. It’s that the Overton Window has moved so far left, so quickly that it could probably be categorized as somewhere between Pinochet and Hitler– if we agree to abide by current scales.

          1. How has it moved “so far left”? I agree that it has moved left on a few issues, but it’s moved right on a lot more, at least as far as I can see.

            Abortion? Definitely to the right.
            Guns? To the right.
            Immigration? Absolutely to the right.
            Spending? It has moved “to the left” only due to the fact that the Republicans have given up any pretense of even caring about spending. In practice, the Overton window has not changed.
            Taxes? It has moved to the left, but it was already pretty far left to begin with. Both teams have completely bought into the progressive tax code idea.
            Free speech? It’s moved to the right, if you consider censorship in the name of social order to be a right-wing value and freedom of expression to be a left-wing value, which it historically has been, even if many of those who tend to be more censorious nowadays identify with the left. Politically, both the populist left and populist right are totally on board with censoring Big Tech.
            With the environment and health care, it’s moved to the left, yeah.
            I guess I am missing some issues, but I’m not yet sold on the “moving leftwards at light speed” hypothesis.

            1. “…if you consider censorship in the name of social order to be a right-wing value and freedom of expression to be a left-wing value, which it historically has been…”

              The phrase “in the name of social order” might be used to exclude cases of censorship “in the name of the Revolution” – and just to be clear, there are lots of examples of this historically.

              1. The left only cares about freedom of expression to the extent that they can use it to subvert their enemies. They hardly believe in it as a principle, especially as the Woke Era demonstrates.

            2. “Abortion? Definitely to the right.J”

              WTF are you talking about ? If anything Reason writers are rabidly pro abortion.

              1. He’s talking about the Overton Window. Not Reason.

                1. You misspelled “he’s a fucking retard”

                2. Yeah sorry if I didn’t make myself clear, I was referring to the Overton window.

            3. “Immigration? Absolutely to the right.”

              Are you out of your mind?

              1. I was referring to the Overton window, not Reason’s positions. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

                1. ah, makes much more sense! I was confuse. Apologies.

          2. I don’t think the window exists any more. It’s now two windows moving away from each other. The one moving left is moving very fast, though. There are no more acceptable ideas in the middle.

    2. If Robby’s “provocative,” then what are the rest of us? Antisocial maniacs?

      1. The rest of us are coif-deficient.

      2. I saw a reference to the Reason commintariat on Wiki that described us as “a hive of scum and villainy second only to Yahoo.”

        Proud to be a part of it.

        1. Probably posted by Preet Bharara.

          1. He’s probably never seen the original Star Wars movies. I’m not sure he could wrap his mind around why on earth the rebels are being so gosh darn mean to those poor storm troopers.

      3. Literally Hitler.

    3. He’s also a “huffy kind of journalist” something I’ve always suspected but couldn’t prove until now.

      1. That just means he rides children’s bikes.

    4. There’s nothing provocative about being centrist.

      1. No, as I read the current climate, there’s everything provocative about being a centrist.

        1. Yup, as you wrote earlier the center isn’t covered by anyone’s Overton window.

    5. Reason used to be a “far right” magazine but under KM-W’s editorship they’ve boldy lurched to “provocative centrism”.

      Robbie has gone from being a provovative centrist ingenue rising star to one of the leading lights of provocative centrist fake news-mongering journalism.

      1. No offense, SIV. but you are not a reliable judge of things like this.

        1. are you joking? Soave is the king of ‘to be sure”

        2. Ahahahah as if anyone cares what you think about it with your empty crotch.

        3. Chipper Morning Scott Bakula-um

  5. “If you’re over the age of 23, you’re not allowed to care what college kids are doing.”

    Fine. If you’re under the age of 23, quit telling me that I should pay off your loans for you.

    1. Hell yeah.

    2. most college kids are communists. Communists want to own everything, control every thought, and eliminate all individuals who don’t conform to their vision. yeah I should care what college kids are doing.

  6. Oooh, the wheeeeeel of outrage keeps a’tuuuuurnin’,
    I don’t know who’ll be canceled tomorrow,
    The wheel of outrage keeps tuuurnin’

  7. The Daily Northwestern’s Apology Shows the Activist Threat to Student Papers that Apologize Student Journalism


  8. I thought newspapers were dying. The fact that these kids are spending obscene amounts of money to get a job in a dying field just shows how stupid they are. Why do you care what stupid people think?

    1. J-School majors aren’t just about newspapers. They’re about leftwing activism, and a dream of running their own blog page that is read by tens of people.

    2. There is always a need for quality journalism.

    3. Careful, now! These are your betters, and they will replace you.

      “Deeply trauma inducing”. Haha. How do they get out of bed in the afternoon? The world is so scary!

  9. I was hardly a pugilist Gen Xer. I was the guy the enforcers protected in sports. So don’t take what I’m about to say as if I’m some ‘tough guy’.

    This fucken generation are fucken pussies.

    What I didn’t have in physical brute force I made up in mental strength. No one got the better of me and always handled stuff I hated or disagreed with internally and without whining.

    But man….these snowflakes are on another level of weak minded asshattery.

    And it’s all thanks to the progressive left regardless of what Reason thinks.

    1. Can’t you at least act like a tough guy on the Internet?

      1. Shut up, cuck.

        1. (Strictly a joke, by the way)

          1. See, Rufus? It’s not that difficult.

            1. It clearly was, he backed off when his Canadian sensibilities took over.

            2. /flicks everyone’s ears. Runs off.

      2. Indeed. What would the snowflakes do when faced with THIS?

        “What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.”

  10. And you thought this story couldn’t get any more stupid:

    Daily Northwestern Editor in Chief Hides in Office to Dodge Free Beacon Questions

    Emerges to decline interview, citing concerns for personal health

    1. What we need is a good culling. Maybe a massive solar flare. I wouldn’t be able to chat with you guys, but you’d probably be ok with that.

    2. Just so you know, this is what a society full of people who are scared looks like.

    3. Wait, did he dodge questions about why the college was giving away all that free bacon, did he dodge questions, about bacon, for which there was no charge, or was he dodging free bacon being thrown at him, about which there were several questions?

      1. Idiot.

  11. The Progressive wheel is spinning so fast because it’s stuck in a mud puddle. All that action is going nowhere fast, splattering everyone nearby, doing nothing useful.

    1. You prefer the routine, strident censorship that shackles conservative-controlled, fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching campuses, clinger?

      1. “You prefer the routine, strident censorship that shackles conservative-controlled, fourth-tier, nonsense-teaching campuses, clinger?”

        Do you ever post anything that isn’t a lie, asshole bigot?

      2. Hi, gecko!

      3. Speaking of tard-cum guzzling speds, of course Arthur L. Hicklib would make an appearance.

      4. Have you met Rev Kuckland yet? Seems to be a polite and reasonable sort of fellow; I suspect you could learn a bit from him.

      5. No Reverend Al….We actually much prefer Reverend Arthur I Kuckland, if you want to know the truth of the matter.

        1. Open wider, disaffected clingers.

          Unless you’re on a clinger-controlled, right-wing-friendly campus — in that case, do as you are told, as usual.

          Either way your all-talk chirping will be accompanied by obsequious compliance with others’ preferences, as has occurred throughout your lifetime as culture war losers.

          1. This is absolute gold. It’s us, and not these wannabe journalists, that are demonstrating obsequious compliance rather than thinking for ourselves. Incredible.

    2. The Wheel of History is unstoppable! Oh wait that was the Khmer Rouge. My bad!

      1. I’ve heard of pizza places serving a Wheel of Meat, where each slice of the pizza had a different meat on it.

  12. Fuckin’ LOL at this tard-cum guzzling sped who autistically listed all the actual journalists who had the temerity to mildly criticize his fellow tard-cum guzzlers at Northwestern.

    1. Any journalist my age or older who doesn’t understand how profoundly fortunate we are that this wasn’t the case for us, and that we should have a corresponding amount of empathy for the students who do have to consider this, should find something to fill up the gap in their soul.

      This guy is the literal embodiment of the masked cryer meme.


  13. “If you’re over the age of 23, you’re not allowed to care what college kids are doing.”

    Fine. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

    Also, The wheel of outrage is a nice band name.

    1. Personally I’m waiting for the tire of outrage, the axle of outrage, and the shock absorbers of outrage.

  14. Activist Threat to Student Journalism

    Just so we’re clear… only Student Journalism.

  15. “A New York Times reporter says “the situation was way more complicated than it first appeared.” No, it wasn’t.”

    Well, the NYT was going to kick up a lot of dust, and then claim it was hard to see.

  16. provocative centrist

    Isn’t this kind of an oxymoron.

    Well, I guess not if the person saying it is an extremist.

    1. “Hey hey, ho ho, both sides have got to go”

  17. I have a request. Can we stop using the generic term “activist” and start using a label that more accurately describes what they are, um, activating for?

    1. Wouldn’t the term have to be printable in a family newspaper?

      1. What the hell is a family newspaper?

        1. I don’t know if any such entity existed, but “family newspaper” used to be an expression, presumably referring to a newspaper so clean you didn’t have to hide it from the kids.

          The NYT used to say their paper wouldn’t soil the family breakfast table. Then they said they ran all the news that was fit to print.

          1. I think what this really meant was that the explicit raunchy stuff was in the text, perhaps on page B5, while rival newspaper actually had *pictures* of headless bodies in topless bars, etc.

            1. While a rival newspaper would run an article about how “Senator Claghorn was caught at hookers-and-cocaine orgy,” the Times article would say that “Senator Claghorn (D-TN) was charged with use of illicit drugs and consorting with women of easy virtue.

              Today is different, the Times wouldn’t run the article at all at first, then a few days later they would have a story entitled “Republicans Pounce on Claghorn Allegations.”

          2. The late newspaper humorist Lewis Grizzard was downright ecstatic when the AJC ran a “preview” column of an upcoming Butthole Surfers show reveling in the thought of the then-late Ralph McGill spinning in his grave at the printing of the word “butthole” in his “family newspaper”. He made sure to write “butthole” at least a dozen times in his column.

            1. He was a funny guy, and a nice guy. How many people actually die of the same malady which kept them out of the Vietnam draft?

              1. Ol’ Lewis was a Clark County cow college Dawg-lover and hated the North Avenue trade school Yellow Jackets. That makes him a bad person.

        2. Mafia owned. That’s all newspapers are good for now, laundering money.

          1. In the area where I live, ferry boats are great for mob money laundering. Just claim every boat is full on every run and you can clean up tens of thousands of dollars every day.

  18. The initial concern of those who reacted negatively to the Daily Northwestern editorial is that student journalists feel pressured to compromise their editorial integrity in order to appease an activist agenda.

    Not me, Jack. My initial concern, slight as it may have been, is that by appeasing an activist agenda the student journalists were revealing that they had no editorial integrity to compromise. And I would bet that that’s the general feeling here. I don’t think anybody’s thinking “oh, those poor journalists being forced to make apologies for things they shouldn’t have to apologize for”, they’re thinking “what a load of feckless cunts, hope it hurts getting your wokeness bullshit shoved up your ass”.

    I haven’t heard anything to suggest that the editorial apology was somehow coerced or that it was anything other than a sincere, heartfelt apology for their lack of pc. Sad as it may be to see some kids browbeaten into a Maoist struggle-session confession, it’s sadder when the kids volunteer to host the session themselves. Somebody needs to teach them that “fuck off” is always an acceptably proper editorial response to somebody complaining about your opinions.

    1. Winston had to be totally broken by torture before he could be built back up to truly love Big Brother.

      What excuse do these kids have?

      1. They’ve been brainwashed since kindergarten. Only the truly rebellious would question the current K-PhD progressive curriculum.

        1. Exactly. Unlike Winston, they never had a spine to break.

  19. “Danu Mudannayake, 21, a senior who is an illustrator at the paper, said in an interview, “We just internally want to see more done to address the concerns on campus and not uphold this quite cold front that ‘We are a newspaper at the end of the day, and that is before anything else.'” She suggested that the era called for a different kind of journalism, particularly for student journalists. “We can still be serious student journalists, but still have more empathy,” she said.”

    No, you cannot, you stupid progtard fuck.

    1. No shit. That doesn’t make you a journalist, it makes you a social worker with a particularly large megaphone.

      1. These are the kinds of comments where I miss the ability to upvote.

  20. More from the anti-people-over-23 editorial:

    “When he was the attorney general from January 2017 to November 2018, Sessions mercilessly used his authority to demonize undocumented immigrants and people of color; he was invited to Northwestern to talk specifically about his experience in the Trump administration. Some important facts about Northwestern before we go on: The student body at the private university, which has an estimated yearly cost of $78,654, is 54 percent white. College Republicans at any school love to invite controversial — or even distinctly evil, by any common judgment — figures to campuses as a provocation. This is almost a rote occurrence for college students, much like locking yourself out of your dorm or doing a beer bong.

    “But the event, for some reason, rankled the Very Serious Adult Professionals Who “Do Journalism” (tweet). The problem, as they saw it, was not that the College Republicans invited a verifiably evil person to campus” etc. etc.

    1. “freelance writer Karen Ho (a personal friend and a contributor to The Outline) wrote that “a number of journalists are mad about the Northwestern note in a way I have never really seen with several other issues, such the lack of diversity in their newsrooms, declines in public trust, or how reporting can further hurt underrepresented communities.””

      1. Of course, these rage-bait retards never consider that the decline in public trust has been largely correlated to the rise in SJW-agenda-driven reporting.

        1. I think there is a desire to force a decline in public trust to usher in an era of authoritarian trust.

    2. Let’s play Woke word bingo!

  21. You know who else Reason is “centrist” in comparison to?

    1. H. Ross Perot?

      1. Problem solved!

    2. Centre College in Danville, Kentucky?

    3. The Center for American Progress?

    4. Libertarianism?

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  24. honestly, I could barely follow the “controversy” as described in this article

    I still don’t know who is supposed to be mad about what.

    1. Students who participated in a mob action to disrupt a campus event are mad that the newspaper’s story and photographs might facilitate their being held responsible for their actions by the university or the police.

  25. “She suggested that the era called for a different kind of journalism, particularly for student journalists. “We can still be serious student journalists, but still have more empathy,” she said. “I think the question of empathetic journalism is, at least for us on the inside, what’s at the heart of it.”

    You propa-fucking-ganda be kidding me.

  26. We can still be serious student journalists, but still have more empathy…

    Not empathy for those we disagree with, of course.

    1. Of course not. They’re evil.

  27. 23 is the new 12.

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