The Daily Northwestern apologized to students Sunday for covering what it called a “traumatic event” — a speech by former Attorney General Sessions to the local young Republicans.
The Northwestern University paper reports from the home of the prestigious Medill Journalism School in Evanston, Illinois. The paper apologized to its students saying in an editorial, “Last week, The Daily was not the paper that Northwestern students deserve.”
In a discussion about Sessions’ visit to the university, the paper noted in the editorial that the trouble started when it assigned a reporter and photographer to the event. “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 — along with how we plan to move forward.” (RELATED: Ivy League Schools Stomp On Freedom Of Speech)
They plan to move forward by vigorously not reporting on any future events that made causer similar trauma. The editors noted how photos of the event especially “harmed many students” by “retraumatizing” them to the apparent shock of Sessions being on campus, something the paper also felt was “invasive.”
/1 Yesterday, @thedailynu published a statement on our coverage of the Jeff Sessions event and protests on campus last week and I wanted to address the concerns that everyone has shared on Twitter.
— Troy Closson (@troy_closson) November 12, 2019
Although the paper desires to ”document” the “gravity of the events that took place” on the campus, the editors have decided to “prioritize the trust and safety of students … We feel that covering traumatic events requires a different response than many other stories. While our goal is to document history and spread information, nothing is more important than ensuring that our fellow students feel safe — and in situations like this, that they are benefitting from our coverage rather than being actively harmed by it. We failed to do that last week, and we could not be more sorry.”
The Daily editors felt reaching out to students via text for potential interviews was far too intrusive and they have put their reporting on staff on notice that this sort of activity will not be tolerated in the future.(RELATED: University Free Speech Chair Slams Campus Censorship)
“Some of our staff members who were covering the event used Northwestern’s directory to obtain phone numbers for students beforehand … 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 editorial promised it would get things right in the future. “Going forward, we are working on setting guidelines for source outreach, social media and covering marginalized groups” in order to support each other and our communities through distressing experiences that arise on campus.”
The Daily is not alone in its belief that journalism should never upset its readers. A student petition in October at Harvard University censured the school paper for quoting officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement when writing stories.