On Sunday, The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University’s student newspaper, issued a public apology for its coverage of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speaking engagement on campus and the demonstrations that followed.
The apology, signed by eight editors, including the editor in chief, expressed regret in reaching out to students directly via Northwestern’s student directory and in photographing the demonstrations protesting Sessions’ visit. The Daily Northwestern further added that its reporters “failed to consider [their] impact in [their] reporting surrounding Jeff Sessions.”
The apology immediately sparked an online outrage from professional and prominent journalists. Though their concern about how students approach reporting is valid, these reputable industry figures took to social media to publicly shame a student news organization full of young journalists just learning their craft. The response was not just hurtful — it was irresponsible.
Managing, running and writing for a student-led university newspaper can be a difficult job. Student journalists look to adhere to the standards of professional news outlets all while studying for exams, preparing for group projects and attempting to maintain some sort of social life and physical well-being.
It should be said that The Daily Northwestern’s apology is concerning. Citing the use of public records, reaching out to the student body and taking photos of a public event are simple reporting practices that journalists use every day.
However, enhancing this understanding requires thoughtful critique outside the public eye. The Daily Northwestern staff, though adults, are still students. They’re learning. Professional journalists should be extending their hands in a show of support with the earnest intention to educate the next generation.
This solidarity was not demonstrated. Instead, writers from prominent news outlets used social media to publicly chastise and shame. Glenn Kessler, a columnist from The Washington Post, tweeted that the Northwestern’s apology was “a travesty and an embarrassment.”
The Daily Northwestern’s editor in chief, Troy Closson, eventually tweeted in a thread that the publication’s apology may have gone too far and that the staff’s understanding of their roles as student journalists is still undergoing development.
Thankfully, other prominent journalists did use the apology as an opportunity to teach that it is OK to make mistakes.
“They’re trying something and maybe it didn’t work! It’s fine!” tweeted Tracie Hunte, “Radiolab” and WNYC reporter.
At the end of the day, we are all still students. Hopefully, this series of errors can serve as a learning lesson for everyone.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Jacob Reyes; Editor-in-Chief Reese Oxner; associate news editor Rocio Hernandez; multimedia editor Anna Geyer; Amanda Padilla, life and entertainment editor; news reporter David Silva and copy editor Andrew Walter.