Media

Medill dean 'deeply troubled by the vicious bullying and badgering' of student journalists

The dean of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications said Tuesday in a statement that he was "deeply troubled" by the response of some students to reporters at a school publication for covering a protest on campus.

In a lengthy statement on the Medill website, Charles Whitaker condemned the "vicious bullying and badgering" of journalists at the student-run publication The Daily, who recently issued an apology to students after facing on-campus backlash for publishing photos of protesters demonstrating against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions at Northwestern.

"Let me be perfectly clear, the coverage by The Daily Northwestern of the protests stemming from the recent appearance on campus by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in no way beyond the bounds of fair, responsible journalism. The Daily Northwestern is an independent, student-run publication. As the dean of Medill, where many of these young journalists are trained, I am deeply troubled by the vicious bullying and badgering that the students responsible for that coverage have endured for the 'sin' of doing journalism," Whitaker wrote of student activists.

"Feel free to critique the coverage. That's what The Daily's opinion pages are for. Better yet, join the staff. The Daily is not and should not be the lone provenance of Medill students. I assure you, your input would be welcomed. But waging war on our students on social media-threatening them both physically and emotionally-is beyond the pale. Our community deserves a more civil level of discourse," he added.

Whitaker went on to criticize the reaction from professional journalists to the student reporters' apology, such as Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler, who called the apology a "travesty."

"And to the swarm of alums and journalists who are outraged about The Daily editorial and have been equally rancorous in their condemnation of our students on social media, I say, give the young people a break," Whitaker wrote.

"I know you feel that you were made of sterner stuff and would have the fortitude and courage of your conviction to fend off the campus critics. But you are not living with them through this firestorm, facing the brutal onslaught of venom and hostility that has been directed their way on weaponized social media. Don't make judgments about them or their mettle until you've walked in their shoes. What they need at this moment is our support and the encouragement to stay the course," he continued.

Sessions spoke last week at an event hosted by Northwestern University's College Republicans chapter and two days later announced a bid for his old Senate seat in Alabama.

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