Last week I talked about how Cancel Culture, popularized by our generation, is preventing us from being able to grow, learn, and educate ourselves in a world where it’s easy to stick with the people whose beliefs and values align with yours and bully those who don’t. How, instead of looking at both sides of the story, we stick to narratives we support and immediately condemn those whose views differ from ours. This week we’ve done it again but now it hits closer to home- it’s our fellow student journalists who we’ve deemed aren’t supporting and reporting the news in line with our goals and views as a generation.
Recently, Northwestern University’s student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, released an apology statement for the way they covered a student protest against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who visited the campus to speak with NU republicans. The paper had done what any newspaper team would’ve done, report on the visit. Sessions, a controversial individual and avid supporter of Trumps’ policies on immigration was scheduled for a talk. It was bound to cause an uproar wherever it happened, and there would be protests. Every journalist’s instinct would’ve been to cover both sides, to sit in on the talk and get quotes and photos of protesters. This is exactly what the Daily did but their fellow NU students’ said that their journalistic practices were, “an invasion of privacy”. The Daily editors apologized for reporters’ efforts to contact students via Northwestern’s directory for interviews and for sharing photographs of the protest on reporter’s social media accounts. But what they were doing were standard journalistic practices, so why are student protestors and activists all up in arms over supposed invasions of privacy?
Taking photos of a public event and using the school directory to look up individuals for interviews are actions that any news outlet would do to get the full scope of the story. Finding the facts and figuring out the truth isn’t easy. It can seem intrusive, invasive, and provoke anger from the subjects. But that’s reporting, and it comes with the job. In a political climate where journalists are being touted to be spreading “fake news” and free speech being under attack, unbiased and comprehensive news coverage is far and in between at the moment. Free, truthful, objective, fair, and accurate reporting is what we desperately need. We need to get to that and this unfortunate attack on young journalists is only spreading the idea that news is only worth its two cents if it supports the groups and subjects it covers.
A journalist’s duty is to report the news and state the facts no matter if it’s unflattering and will cause an uproar in certain communities. That’s the point of journalism. Provoke conversation while stating the realities of the world we live in. Cancel Culture, while it is useful in bringing to light problematic and provocative individuals and groups, also manages to stifle differing opinions and dissenters who don’t confine to the “status quo” and are considered to be “close-minded” or conservative in thought and politics. Yes, it’s upsetting to hear opinions that conflict with yours and sometimes the level of cognitive dissonance people have in the face of truth and rationalizing (or not) those facts to fit their beliefs can be painful to watch. But having opposing views is important because it incites conversation, it starts a dialogue to find common ground in conflicts and topics that were seen to be clear cut but really is more complex than its first assumed. Freedom of opinion and diversity of thought is what America was built on and what we still cherish today, and while yes, we should censor some messages that are harmful and destructive it doesn’t mean that simply reporting on such events and topics should be censored as well. That’s not free press and journalisms’ main purpose is to inform on the things that are true, and if it paints certain people in a bad light or steps on a couple of toes well then that’s good journalism.