Student mistakes merit education, not criticism


Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Nate Belman, Max Karp, Piper Hattenbach, Hannah Masling, and Ayomi Wolff

Last month, disputes broke out regarding the right of college journalists at Northwestern University to publish images of public protesters. Student protestors argued that the newspaper fed off of arrested students’ trauma and that the publication violated students’ privacy. The paper apologized, but members of the journalism community were quick to criticize The Daily Northwestern’s decision. WhileThe Daily shouldn’t have apologized, we believe that critics will not effectively change the habits of student newspapers without efforts to educate them. 

Adults too often condemn without offering resources to help fix the problem they so ruthlessly attack. The editor of the National Review Online called The Daily a “national embarrassment.” Dozens of opinions articles from liberal and conservative media condemned the students’ apology. But what advice did they offer The Daily journalists? Nothing. 

Criticism from the journalism community closely parallels the attitudes of Wilson administration regarding unwanted student behavior, like tardiness. Wilson’s administration routinely penalizes late students with phone calls to parents, revocation of off-campus lunch privileges, and detention. What’s missing from the administration’s efforts to promote timeliness is exactly what was missing from the journalists who condemned The Daily: an educational standpoint. Teaching students the importance of time management and providing them with resources for improving timeliness will give students the means to ameliorate their tardiness issue.

But hope is not lost. Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press NV Law Center, said, “There needs to be training to enable student journalists to really cover these complicated issues without being buffeted by political concerns.” This mindset of teaching rather than preaching is imperative to enacting real change in the behavior of youth. As budding journalists in a changing political climate, we need to be nurtured with understanding and given room to learn from previous mistakes. Without that space, the condescending adult gaze will suffocate us. •