Is PC culture ending college campus journalism?

Journalists are worried by recent controversies pitting college activists against college newspapers.

Two recent controversies pitting college activists against college journalists show the stifling effects of political correctness policing.

Harvard's student government voted Sunday to condemn The Harvard Crimson after it reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for comment on a protest. Also on Sunday, Northwestern University's student newspaper apologized for following normal journalistic practices in its coverage of a campus protest of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week.

"When young journalists cave to campus activists and exclude particular points of view, they learn that they don't have to speak across cultural and political divides," Les Sillars, professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., told FOX Business. "We end up with media that speak only to factions instead of aspiring to reach the whole society."

"It reduces journalism to the application of power instead of an impartial search for truth, and it contributes to a toxic political and cultural environment," Sillars continued.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the National Law Enforcement Conference on Human Exploitation in Atlanta, Georgia, June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry - RTX39A5B

The Harvard Crimson and The Daily Northwestern had very different reactions to the backlash they each faced.

The Crimson came under attack for covering an immigrant rights group's "Abolish ICE" protest in September.

The Undergraduate Council, the university's student government, argued that The Crimson's actions caused "fear and feelings of unsafety" among students on campus. The Council made a statement of solidarity that falls short of a full boycott of the newspaper. The Crimson was rebuked in a statement that passed 15-13-4.


More than 900 people and several student groups signed an online petition demanding The Crimson "apologize for the harm they inflicted on the undocumented community," "stop calling ICE" and "declare their commitment to protecting undocumented students on campus."

The university's College Democrats chapter said it would not speak to The Crimson "until they stop calling ICE on students."

Kristine Guillaume, president of The Crimson, defended the paper's request for comment in a statement.

"Fundamental journalistic values obligate The Crimson to allow all subjects of a story a chance to comment," Guillaume wrote. "This policy demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that the individuals and institutions we write about have an opportunity to respond to criticisms in order to ensure a fair and unbiased story."

In a letter to readers, The Crimson pointed out it did not provide the names or immigration statuses of individuals at the protest in its request for comment to ICE. The editors stressed that the students who were interviewed and speeches made at the public protest were on the record.

In contrast, The Daily Northwestern faced harsh criticism from professional journalists for caving to activists' pressure. The Daily apologized Sunday for how it covered the Sessions protest.

The journalists posted photos from the event on Twitter, used the school's directory to obtain students' contact information for interviews and quoted a student protester by name.


"[W]e are figuring out how we can support each other and our communities through distressing experiences that arise on campus," The Daily staff members wrote in an open letter on Sunday. "We will also work to balance the need for information and the potential harm our news coverage may cause."

Members of the media criticized the student journalists for apologizing for normal journalistic practices because of some backlash.


"Someday the young editors of The Daily Northwestern will look back on this episode in their lives with regret and shame. But for now, let's just think of it as a teachable moment," Chicago media writer Roger Feder wrote on Twitter.

"The editors of Northwestern's student newspaper are apologizing for doing journalism. This is deeply embarrassing," Matt Sebastian of The Denver Post wrote on Twitter Monday.

Northwestern is home to the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. Medill Dean Charles Whitaker said Sunday that the student journalists were "beat[en] into submission by the vitriol and relentless public shaming they have been subjected to since the Sessions stories appeared."

"Indeed, there is no shortage of instances in which journalists have parachuted into settings, particularly those occupied by vulnerable or marginalized people, and provided accounts that were devoid of any sense of cultural competency," Whitaker said in a statement.

"But 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," he said. "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."

FOX News' Caleb Parke contributed to this report.