Editors at the Northwestern University student paper The Daily Northwestern on Sunday issued an apology for what it called “mistakes” in its coverage of a campus event last week featuring former Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions, who served a tumultuous term as attorney general under President Trump from 2017 to 2018, announced a bid to win back his Alabama Senate seat last week. He spoke at Northwestern on Nov. 5 amid heavy protests.
The editors at the paper from the well-known journalism school specifically noted the photos taken at the event in their apology, noting that some students had found them to be “retraumatizing and invasive” and adding that those photos had been taken down.
“The Daily sent a reporter to cover that talk and another to cover the students protesting his invitation to campus, along with a photographer. We recognize that we contributed to the harm students experienced, and we wanted to apologize for and address the mistakes that we made that night — along with how we plan to move forward,” reads part of the apology.
“One area of our reporting that harmed many students was our photo coverage of the event. Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Those photos have since been taken down,” it adds.
The online reaction to the paper’s apology was swift from across the spectrum, with most arguing that Northwestern, a university with one of the top journalism programs in the country, was abandoning the basic tenets of reporting.
The student newspaper at Northwestern, home to one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country, has issued a groveling apology for…doing journalism, during & after Jeff Sessions’ speech on campus. As a proud alum, I’m embarrassed by this: https://t.co/ggEPyXU8n5
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 11, 2019
Students at the most prestigious journalism program in the country, to activists: So sorry for covering news that offended you, we promise to do better. https://t.co/usZDy3IzTN
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) November 12, 2019
If the Daily Northwestern refuses to do journalism, some other enterprising students should step in and do it instead https://t.co/2RXpcYP55Z
— Graeme Wood (@gcaw) November 11, 2019
I thought this Daily Northwestern editorial was an Onion piece at first… https://t.co/rI18CgoWGm
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) November 12, 2019
So Northwestern’s student newspaper apologized for the trauma brought on by its coverage of a Jeff Sessions speech on campus?! When I read articles like these I feel like the country has gone insane. https://t.co/mRET986F0q
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) November 12, 2019
The Sessions event was disrupted by student protests, leading Sessions to say, “This is stupid. They can have a right to do it, OK, but at some point, I have to speak.”
“You shouldn’t be blaming young Republicans for meticulously defending their beliefs and putting up with this kind of trash,” he added.
Video on Twitter showed student protesters trying to enter the event, which was free and open to the public, through the back of the building.
On Monday, the paper defended its apology, with editor in chief Troy Closson telling The Washington Post, “Something we thought about a lot this week is how challenging it is to be student journalists who are reporting about other students. We’re thinking about what our role looks like specifically as student journalists who have to cover this, but at the same time we have to go to class with those students tomorrow.”
The Hill has reached out to The Daily Northwestern for comment.