The principal student newspaper at Harvard University is being forced by student activists to defend the standard journalistic practice of asking subjects of stories for comment.
The Crimson, according to a “Note to Readers” published Tuesday, was publicly condemned by the group Act on a Dream and 10 other student groups for seeking comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a Sept. 13 article about an Act protest calling for the agency to be abolished.
More than 650 people have signed a petition, which condemns getting comment from ICE as “cultural insensitivity.”
“In this political climate, a request for comment is virtually the same as tipping [ICE] off, regardless of how they are contacted,” reads the petition, which demands that the Crimson “reexamine and interrogate policies that place students under threat” and apologize for “the harm they inflicted” on illegal-immigrant students.
Act on a Dream also took to Twitter to “call on our peers and fellow student organizations to boycott @thecrimson and decline any interviews or requests for comment until they change their reckless policy that requires calling ICE in their reporting.”
We call on our peers and fellow student organizations to boycott @thecrimson and decline any interviews or requests for comment until they change their reckless policy that requires calling ICE in their reporting.— Act on a Dream (@actonadream) October 19, 2019
The Crimson letter defended contacting ICE but only after assuaging some of Act on a Dream’s concerns and treating its demand for one-sided stories as serious.
“Let us be clear: In The Crimson’s communication with ICE’s media office, the reporters did not provide the names or immigration statuses of any individual at the protest. We did not give ICE forewarning of the protest, nor did we seek to interfere with the protest as it was occurring. Indeed, it is The Crimson’s practice to wait until a protest concludes before asking for comment from the target of the protest — a rule which was followed here. The Crimson’s outreach to ICE only consisted of public information and a broad summary of protestors’ criticisms. As noted in the story, ICE did not respond to a request for comment,” wrote Crimson President Kristine E. Guillaume and Managing Editor Angela N. Fu.
Both women are seniors scheduled to graduate next year.
“Experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists have affirmed that The Crimson followed ethical journalistic practices,” they noted, before concluding that “we understand that some readers may disagree with The Crimson’s policies.”
The tone of the Crimson letter was not lost on some commentators at its site.
“If Donald Trump insisted that The Crimson cover just his point of view and hold off from ever seeking comment from his political opponents, I doubt that this long-winded and painfully defensive apology would be forthcoming,” said commenter “Nestor 33.”
Among the groups joining Act on a Dream’s demand for one-sided stories, at least about immigration and ICE, are the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard College Democrats for [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren.
Act on a Dream did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.
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