OPINION: The Daily Northwestern made a mistake, journalists should help them


Moss Brennan, Reporter

Believe it or not, journalists are human. Journalists, young and old, make mistakes. The mistakes a journalist makes can range from a tiny misspelling or a huge fact error. Either way, mistakes are mistakes, and humans will make them.

But, the key for journalists, especially student journalists, is to learn. The Appalachian, just like many other student news organizations, has tried to learn from our mistakes. That does not mean we won’t make more in the future.

Some mistakes can bring national attention, and not the good kind.

Student editors at The Daily Northwestern did something that is significant in journalism. They apologized

This apology wasn’t for a small fact error or misspelling a name. Their apology was for coverage of a protest at a speaking event of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The editors at Northwestern University’s student-run newspaper apologized for publishing photos of protesters, who were protesting in public. They also apologized for reporters using the Northwestern directory to obtain phone numbers to contact students about interviews.

This is basic news gathering process that journalists all over the world do on a daily basis. They should
not have apologized for reporters doing their jobs.

The editorial received so much attention that editorials ran in the Washington Post and the New York Times questioning the apology. It also received backlash from many journalists on social media.

Many of the comments on Twitter attacked the editors of the paper for apologizing. Some called for them to resign immediately. Alumni said they were embarrassed. Others even said they should never be hired as journalists. While I do not think they should have released the editorial, they do not deserve the severe backlash they received.

One goes to college to learn. No one is perfect, and student journalists are far from perfect. Simply being one is hard.

Student journalists are first and foremost, students. Most take 15-18 hours of classes a week.

Editors work tirelessly to get a paper out and make sure the campus is getting covered. Reporters, many of who are unpaid, work on deadline while dealing with all the homework and projects that comes with college.

Medill School of Journalism Dean Charles Whitaker said it best in a nearly 1,300 word statement addressing the editorial: “Have they made mistakes? Most assuredly. They are students learning the craft. But I firmly maintain that our students do not act with malice aforethought. By and large, they want to do the right thing and reflect the community accurately.”

The Daily Northwestern editors did deserve some of the backlash so they could understand their mistake; I am not arguing that.

But in a time when journalism is under attack from the most powerful man in the world, going into the field is already hard enough. Professional journalists should offer help and advise to student journalists, not tear them down for their mistakes.