Author Archives: William A. Babcock

The Gray, Grey Lady mucks up

by William A. Babcock

Media — it’s a plural. Medium is the singular. Grammar 101. Clear. Simple. No question.

Unless you’re the New York Times, which inexplicably and regularly refers to “media” as a singular, as in “the media is.”

That newspaper argues that usage has made it so, much in the same way the Associated Press now accepts “under way” as one word in all instances, allows “hopefully” to be an adjective and persists in saying someone “died suddenly,” where, since death always is sudden, the correct usage is “died unexpectedly.” Ah, the death of the English language as we know it – or at least as we knew it. Sigh….

So yes, the New York Times’ caving into to common/incorrect usage is annoying. But that’s where annoyance with the Gray (or is it Grey?) Lady ends –or should end.

The Times, along with other traditional mass media such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and CNN, have proven to be great annoyances to Donald Trump. The newly elected president has been berating and calling these traditional mass media names and accusing them of distributing false information and news.

His omnipresent diatribes against legacy media not only provide ample fodder for Gateway Journalism Reviews’ weekly eNewsletter, but readers will note the issue they now have in front of them is the second quarterly magazine to focus on Trump and the media. That’s only the second time in this publication’s nine-year existence that it has published two issues focusing on the same topic (let alone on the same individual), with the first being the Ferguson issues.

Journalism reviews are media ethics tools. As such they focus on ethics shoulds, as opposed to First Amendment musts. And even when legal issues are featured, as was the case in GJR’s last magazine, the shoulds must take precedence. Or to quote First Amendment scholar Donald Gillmor, the law must have a clear moral element to it, or it ceases to be just.

To put it bluntly, Trump has been grossly unfair, irresponsible and unethical in his criticism of journalism and the mass media. His skin, if he indeed has any, is microscopically thin. Have the media made mistakes in covering the United States’ president? Absolutely.   Have the mistakes been the exception and exceedingly rare. Absolutely.

And let’s differentiate between “professional media” and “social media.” Professional or traditional media operate under established ethics codes. One such code, and the one most accepted as the gold standard, is that of the Society of Professional Journalists. This code instructs journalists to seek truth and report it, to minimize harm, to act independently and to be accountable. Social media seldom have – and rarely conform to – such ethics guidelines.

Is she a journalist?

Today a 14-year-old girl wearing PJs and blogging on her laptop while reclining in bed may be considered to be a journalist. But to say she’s a journalist in the same manner of the Times’ Dean Baquet, Joseph Kahn or Rebecca Blumenstein, is simply ludicrous. The pig-tailed teenager – a social media journalist – may be engaging in rumor mongering, may be spreading fake news and/or may be reporting the truth.

The U.S. is the only nation guaranteeing freedom of the press. With that guarantee should come the responsibility that journalists be credible – that they behave ethically. It’s a shame that many social media “journalists” are unaware of their ethical responsibility.

But for Trump or his staff to not see the difference and lump all “journalists” in the same boat is demeaning not only to his office, but it also can lead members of the public to distrust journalists – and to distrust them at a time when the world needs to trust trustworthy media. And for him to berate professional media for trafficking in “fake” news is preposterous.

So until Trump understand this, the media will continue to rightfully call him out when he lies, exaggerates and behaves like a boorish bully in his treatment of the media.

Now if only the Times might finally stop mucking up the English language and consider that media are indeed plural.

“Dewey Defeats Truman” – again

In the just-published, most recent print Gateway Journalism Review, my editor’s column opined it now was time, in the wake of the Cleveland Indians winning baseball’s 2016 World Series, for the media to stop using the name Indians and the team’s offensive Chief Wahoo logo.

In the column I said the Cleveland Indians “might best celebrate by turning over a new leaf and shedding their name and logo.” I urged the Indians’ owners to consider instead the name Cleveland Spiders, a previous 19th century name of the team.

But if the northern Ohio baseball franchise owners still decided to keep the current name and racist logo, I urged sports pages and sports reporters to no longer use the name and logo, and that the media also eliminate the professional sports team nicknames Chiefs, Braves and Redskins.

The only problem was that the low-budget Indians did not win this year’s championship, losing in the 10th inning of game seven, just as it had done to another deep-pockets team 19 years earlier. And in my eagerness to make GJR’s deadline with the strongest possible column as the magazine went to the printers in the midst of the World Series, I crossed my fingers and prematurely crowned my home-town team the winner. Clearly, I should have heeded the admonition of former New York Yankee’s catcher Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

I thus apologize to all my Chicago Cubs friends, colleagues and students for such unprofessional, inaccurate, published wishful thinking.

My only conceivable consolation is knowing that such an infamous error may have last occurred in 1948 when the Chicago Daily Tribune (now the Chicago Tribune) boldly headlined the lead story in its first (one-star) edition, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” And 1948 was the same year in which the Cleveland Indians truly won their last World Series title. Sigh…


RIP the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo


A new age is dawning, clearly. The Cleveland Indians have won their third Major League Baseball World Series. First time was 1920; second time 1948. (World Series losses in 1954, 1995 and 1997 now seem but bad memories.)

Time to celebrate.

And the Cleveland Indians might best celebrate by turning over a new leaf and shedding their name and logo. No team starting up in 2016 would call itself the Indians – or the Chinese or the Puerto Ricans or the Koreans or the Mexicans or the Arabs. Or Chinamen or Pakis or Degos?   Or, well, you get the picture.

Why not bring back the Cleveland Spiders – the 1889-1899 name of the Cleveland baseball team — that is not harmful to modern-day Native Americans?

The Cleveland Spiders baseball team could have a spider logo. Think of the merchandizing gold mine, bringing out in time for the April start of the 2017 season Spider caps and Spider jerseys and spider T-shirts.

No team should any more keep the Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo still gracing some of the team’s caps and jerseys. A logo picturing a toothy, red-skinned Indian with single-feathered headgear. Time to retire that stereotypical, offensive logo.

But what if Indians management decides to keep the name and logo? What should the media to do?

In past years the Portland Oregonian and Minneapolis Star-Tribune axed for a while the Indians nickname from their sports pages, along with Chiefs, Braves and Redskins. Some fans protested dropping these nicknames, but most did not. And none of these teams folded. All still thrive.

Isn’t it time for the sports media to unite and say such names – and some related logos – simply are inappropriate in the 21st century? The Society for Professional Journalists advises in its ethics code that journalists balance seeking and reporting the truth with minimizing harm.   Until or unless the Cleveland baseball franchise axes the nickname Indians, sports media could simply – and accurately – call it the Cleveland Baseball Team. Accurate, truthful and harm minimized.

Many American Indians object to a modern-day team calling itself the Indians. Shouldn’t that justify the media no longer using such a nickname? After all, in a year where a low-budget professional baseball team from Cleveland defies the odds and improbably wins it all, any thing is – and should be – possible. Even retiring the Indians name.

Killing the messenger

When a general overseeing a battle in ancient Persia was approached by a scout reporting that the conflict was going badly, the commander, in a fit of rage, killed the person who had delivered the bad news.

Or at least that’s the story that’s been passed down for centuries and in recent decades has resurfaced as “to kill the messenger” morality tale. Such scenarios especially seem to take place in American politics every four years where at some point at least one presidential candidate blames the news media – the messenger – for his or her poor performance and low polling number in the run-up to the November election.

And Republican candidate Donald Trump’s omnipresent diatribes against journalists are no exception. What does appear unusual this time around, however, is both the vehemence and frequency of his “the media are biased” utterances. He says this on a near daily basis, he snarls when he says “media” during debates, his surrogates repeat the charge and his minions mimic these accusations.

Thus the question arises: How should journalists respond when a political candidate is, shall we say, not your average political candidate?

There is no question Trump is not your ordinary political personality. A billionaire, a television personality, a real-estate tycoon, a person who shoots from the lip at every opportunity. So what’s a journalist going to do? How does a political reporter fairly cover such a character?

There have been at least three elections in recent history where journalists were faced with similar challenges. While none of these modern-day scenarios featured candidates identical to Trump, they all provide examples of how political reporters and the media covered such unusual candidates.

David Duke

In 1991, New Orleans Times-Picayune editor, Jim Amoss, had a dilemma. Running for the Louisiana governor’s race was former Gov. Edwin Edwards, an individual considered by many to have been at the very least borderline corrupt and somewhat sleazy. Running against Edwards was former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.   Amoss said at that time it was “a far trickier ethical morass covering a former Klan leader whose newfound rhetoric disguised his longstanding beliefs, whose following among one’s readers is sincere and massive, whose election would mean social and economic disaster, but whose opponent is a scoundrel.”

Not only did the Times-Picayune run a number of editorials denouncing Duke, but news coverage was directed by African-American city editor, Keith Woods, who unleashed some 40 people to put together massive reporting on the election and on Duke.

Such reporting provided case-study fodder for journalism ethics books, including Jay Black, Bob Steele and Ralph Barney’s Doing Ethic in Journalism, where Woods was quoted as saying he “did not have people trying to uncover new truths about Edwards…. And for a lot of people there was no distinction between the editorials and news coverage…. It wasn’t a blurring of lines. It was an erasing of the lines.”

While the New Orleans newspaper did not print mindless allegations, reported both candidates’ comments and did not avoid negative reporting on both candidates, the paper’s agenda was clear – to uncover everything it could about a racist candidate whose election could be harmful to the state. And since readers already knew much about Edwards, who had been in the news for years, the newspaper had an obligation to make up lost ground and tell voters about a candidate about whom they knew little.

As Amoss subsequently said, the Duke story was “all-consuming” and “to a certain extent, the ethical dilemmas were solved by the momentum of the story itself. Duke was the story for the media, the readers, and the voters. You either voted for Duke or you didn’t vote for Duke. To a great degree, that exonerates news organizations. They are tracking what the story has become. The focus already was on Duke. It was incumbent upon the newspaper to explore that phenomenon.”

And Black, Steele and Barney ask: Was the paper fair in its journalist mission and its reporting? How do you define “fairness” in a story like this?”

Jesse Ventura

Former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura was running in 1998 for governor in Minnesota against two well-known politicians, Hubert “Skip” Humphrey III and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Humphrey’s running mate, Roger Moe, chastised the media, saying, “I really think you folks (broadcast and print journalists) let him (Ventura) off the hook. You let him get free ride, the press did, and nobody knows anything about him. He wasn’t pinned down on any of his issues – not like Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey were. So I think he’s been treated with kid gloves….”

As the Silha Center Bulletin reported in 1999, “Before Mr. Ventura surged in the polls a few weeks before the election, the broadcast and print media viewed him as it would an amusing sideshow at the State Fair. Once he reached 20 percent in the polls, however, and he was seen as a ‘viable’ candidate, he received similar coverage to that given to the two major party candidates, even though he was still depicted in some stories to be little more than a political freak with no real chance of winning the election. By covering him in the run-up to the election as they did Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Coleman, the Twin Cities media gave Mr. Ventura’s candidacy a huge boost.” Thus, by not covering Ventura more extensively the Minnesota media were unfair to the other two candidates.

Without serious media coverage, residents of this progressive state that had spawned Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale seemed to go politically brain-dead and voted for a man whose major claim was faking athleticism in the wrestling ring and wearing a pink boa.

After Ventura’s election, journalists through that Midwestern state began covering him more extensively, though such after-win coverage seemed a bit like learning to drive after one has crashed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger   

In 2003 California journalists faced Minnesota déjà vu with body builder and Hollywood action figure Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his recall challenge to Gov. Gray Davis, whose views and policies were well known, journalists could have concentrated most of their ink and air time as he was a political unknown.

Instead of covering the Hollywood star like a blanket, California voters were shortchanged, and Minnesota’s one-act Ventura production gained a second act, with Schwarzenegger getting top billing by media default.

Voters in the Golden State “knew” Schwarzenegger, having for years gone to bed with his flickering image on their television sets. And journalists did little to inform the electorate of plans for the state or policies he hoped to enact – assuming he had any.

According to a Minnesota Star-Tribune opinion piece, “His only political experience (was) marrying into the Kennedy clan, and Democratic osmosis doe not make sense for a Republican film star and former bodybuilder.”

Donald Trump

This is not to equate Trump’s verbal histrionics with Duke’s racist past, even though this year Louisiana’s former KKK leader has endorsed the New York billionaire for president. Rather, based on the media’s past experience with Duke and celebrities Ventura and Schwarzenegger, it seems a shame the media this time around didn’t examine the non-traditional presidential hopeful more carefully in the run-up to Nov. 8.

But given the outcome of the Ventura and Schwarzenegger contests, that should come as little surprise. Both “entertaining” candidates won their respective races where they seldom if ever were seriously questioned by a star-struck media that all but rolled over and played dead. So have the media been biased this year against Trump, as Trump and his followers have charged? Hardly. Rather, he usually has been treated with kid gloves, much as was the cases in Minnesota and California.

Strenuous, serious, unrelenting coverage of Trump was particularly needed this year as so much had been reported about Hillary Clinton for some 30 years. The electorate knew of her policies, enacted legislation, foreign policy initiatives, plans for the economy – the works. Voters had no such book on Trump.

Political journalists thus should have spent most of their time since his nomination this year:

  • Doggedly questioning him on his views on education, taxes, federal budget, health care, diversity, energy, environment and related issues, and not accepting simplistic answers.
  • Creating investigative teams of top reporters to discover more of his past, to interview his current and former associates and to put together truly comprehensive profiles of the candidate.
  • Barraging him with tough questions.
  • Writing extensively about him on tweets, blogs, editorial and op-ed pages.
  • Treating him as a candidate, not as a billionaire curiosity.

That means by Election Day, voters should have known one presidential candidate as well as they do the other. That means this year the media should have spent much more time than they did covering Trump in a substantive manner, to reduce voters’ knowledge gap between him and the well-known, extensively covered Clinton. That means treating voters fairly.

Ginsburg and ethics

There’s ethics, and then there’s ethics.

Ethics of the first order – legitimate ethics – have a solid philosophical basis. Ethics of the second order often have little to do with ethics, but instead are client and/or financially driven.

True ethics often center on Immanual Kant’s “categorical imperative,” or duty, to be true to one’s self — to tell the truth. This approach emphasizes action. Often included in this discussion is John S. Mill’s “utility principle,” focusing on the greatest good for the greatest number, an outcome-driven concept. Kant’s and Mill’s ethics concepts are usually at odds with one another. But occasionally they converge.

In the case of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is such a convergence. Justice Ginsburg was impelled to tell the truth about Donald Trump for the greater good of American voters. As such she was acting with the highest of ethical intent. (She subsequently apologized Thursday for earlier being quoted in the media by saying Trump was egotistical, inconsistent and a “faker,” saying he says “whatever comes into his head at the moment.”)

While her earlier remarks produced a conflict of interest, that does not mean her comments to the Associated Press or the New York Times were unethical.

It’s not surprising “legal ethicists” might disagree. After all, “legal ethics,” a subject taught at most law schools in the United States, focuses primarily on how attorneys should represent clients, irrespective of ethics per se or the ethics of a case. Genuine ethics? Hardly.

As the Los Angeles Times said in its July 14 story, “…the prospect of a President Trump is so upsetting to Ginsburg that she felt compelled to set aside the usual traditions of justices staying out of politics.” In other words, she thought her ethical duty to warn Americans against a possible GOP presidential victory in November trumped a SCOTUS judge shying away from a political issue.

For that she deserves media laurels, not darts from “legal ethicists.”

From Brexit to Trump

Except for a recent Rutgers University study* finding most British newspapers tended to advocate the United Kingdom exit the European Union, Gateway Journalism Review has found little if any research indicating how the media played the Brexit story.

While no social science data were apparently collected on the American media’s coverage of this issue, anecdotal evidence points to a reverse trend in the U.S., where the media seemed to lean toward coverage encouraging Britain to remain in the UK. And the American media have not been shy about examining their own coverage.

But regardless of media coverage, most political scientists in Britain, while expecting the final ballot to be close, were surprised the “Leavers” outpolled the “Remainers,” and that they did so by nearly four percentage points – 51.9 to 48.1 percent. Since then, much Monday-night quarterbacking and speculation have occurred, laying blaming “Leave” voting on everything from EU emigration policies to a rural-urban divide to voters’ age to weather in London on voting day to a growing nationalist tendency of the British population, especially the English.

And “Leavers” have been likened to Donald Trump supporters on the other side of The Pond. Much Trump coverage in recent days has centered on the candidate’s money problems, with Hillary Clinton now raising many times more cash than the New York billionaire. Trump currently is being portrayed as not only out of touch with voters, but also nearly out of cash and increasingly, it seems, being seen as an increasing long-shot, or at the very least being a candidate hard-pressed to beat Clinton come November.

But might there be a Brexit/Trump similarity the U.S. media are not yet seeing? An unprecedented number of British voters turned out to cast pro-Brexit votes. Many of these voters were older, whiter, less educated and feeling marginalized in the modern world and longing for the good old days when the Union Jack flew proudly around the world and the sun never set on the British empire.

Might there be a similar strain of U.S. voters waiting to vote in November? Might the U.S. media be underestimating the size and voice of older, whiter, less educated voters on this side of The Pond who long to “make America great again” — for a return to the 1950s? Might Donald Trump surprisingly pull the nationalist card from the deck, trumping Clinton, learned political scientists and a disbelieving media?

* Study confirms that the national press is biased in favour of Brexit

500,000 extra copies

Sunday was a big sports day in the United States. For the first time ever, a National Basketball Association team came back in the finals after being down 3-1. That same team defeated the Golden State Warriors, which had a 73-9 win-loss record in the regular season.

And GSW were implausibly beaten in game seven on their own home turf.

And the win signaled the first win for any Cleveland men’s professional sports team –football, baseball and basketball – since 1964, the longest such drought for any American city in recent sports history. And the Cleveland Cavaliers, with considerable help from native Buckeye LeBron James, broke the hex, or jinx if you prefer. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the fourth largest-circulation daily newspaper in the Midwest, printed 500,000 extra editions as a result,* more than a 13-fold increase in the daily subscribers figure for the paper.

Good for the PD. Good for Northern Ohio. Good for all supporters of apparent underdogs and lost causes.

But where have all those 500,000 Buckeyes been for the past decades? They want to validate their professional sports franchises and raise the hopes of a much-maligned city by getting a piece of history in the form of a Page One of the local newspaper. Isn’t the news we all need and want something that still — even in this age of social and new media – is also the purview of daily newspapers?

Daily household penetration of U.S. newspapers has been dropping since 1910. Radio, television, Baby Boomers’ “unsettling” patterns and new media all have taken their toll. The PD clearly is part of this trend.

Still, when we want to remember a newsworthy event, few of us rush to find and keep a Googled copy of the event or make a DVD of a televised program for posterity. Instead, we seek newspaper front page to remember – for a scrapbook or for framing or for squirreling away in a drawer to retrieve at some later date and possibly share with friends, children and grandchildren.

It’s impossible to find a leak-proof moral to all this. Perhaps the best media watchers can do is to applaud the Cleveland PD and the 500,000 individuals for that front page of the Cavs’ newsworthy win. Still….


Cleveland Plain Dealer overwhelmed by demand for Cavs’ victory reprints


A call for responsible reporting of irresponsible speech

For generations, American journalists have been fooling themselves – and their audience. Unwittingly perhaps, but still fooling themselves.

On the one hand reporters – whether print, broadcast, cable, or social media – have trumpeted their U.S. Constitutional, First Amendment “right” to have the personal, individual freedom to report on and publish virtually any and every thing they like. To this end they are cheered on by living attorneys and, from the grave, by John Locke and Rosseau, practitioners of the European Enlightenment advocating a “marketplace of ideas” for all readers, listeners and viewers.

On the other hand these same journalists maintain they are gathering and reporting news and information designed to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of their audience. Such a Utilitarian approach, advocated by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and popularized by J.K. Rolling’s Albus Dumbledore character in her Harry Potter books, justifies sacrificing individual freedom so society might be safeguarded and better served. Ethicists applaud this approach.

Exercising the freedom to produce whatever information the journalist deems important can lead to censure as it harms the greater good. Journalists focusing only on the greater good can in turn justify censorship.

And nowhere has the freedom v. harmony conflict been more noticeable than higher education, where instances of racially insensitive speech and political correctness increasingly are coming to the fore. As a result, the vigor of intellectual freedom is threatened by actions on campus and in society that stifle intellectual freedom in the name of racial and ethnic sensibilities.

Recently, the University of California system considered a proposed statement on intolerance including anti-Zionism as a “form of discrimination.” According to the Los Angeles Times, 130 faculty members signed a letter that supported naming anti-Zionism an expression of anti-Semitism, and saying students needed guidance “When healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel’s right to exist.”

Nearly twice as many faculty members, the Times reported, “expressed fear the proposed statement would restrict free speech and the academic freedom to teach, debate and research about the complex and tumultuous history of Israel and the Zionist movement.”

U.C. Berkeley Professor Judith Butler told the Times, “To include anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and bigotry is actually to suppress a set of political beliefs that we actually need to hear. It saddens me and strikes at the heart of the task of the university.”

In contrast to Berkeley, where the university is trying to restrict speech critical of Zionism – speech that is defensible – Oberlin College’s president recently defended academic freedom after a professor, whose speech was not only anti-Jewish but false and venomous, posted comments on social media claiming Jews and Israelis control much of the world and were responsible for the 9/11attacks and the Islamic State.

A Los Angeles Times editorial from June, 2015 began,

“It’s troubling when any institution tries to squelch debate or discourage controversial ideas, but it’s downright alarming when this occurs at a university — and even worse when it is the University of California, whose Berkeley campus was at the center of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening thanks to heavy-handed sensitivity training about so-called microaggressions.”

Nor is this something new. Nadine Strossen in 1996 discussed these issues in Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, deals with hate speech codes, which attempt to restrict bigoted or offensive speech, punishing those engaging in it. Strossen and others in this anthology argue that speech regulation designed to protect minorities is, in the final analysis, destined to be used against them. In this 20-year-old book the author maintains “it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw the line between unprotected insults and protected ideas.”

At Princeton University, for example, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson helped the university expand into a full-scale institution of higher learning. To honor him the university subsequently created The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Last fall, however, posters appeared on campus quoting some of the former president’s racist quotes, including one where he said “segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit.”

The posters, put up by a newly formed student group called the Black Justice League, led to a walkout by some 200 students, and the presentation by members of that group of a list of demands, the top of which called for the university to “publicly acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson” and to rename its public policy school.

As Atlantic magazine recently reported, “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”

Last fall University of Louisville President James Ramsey felt obliged to apologize for a photo of him and his staff wearing ponchos, sombreros and fake facial hair at a Halloween-themed party that turned “cultural stereotypes into costumes.”

In a November Yale Daily News article, early childhood education researcher Erika Christakis emailed why “offensive” costumes might be permissible: “Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.” She recalled that her sociologist husband Nicholas had said, “If you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other.”

This language-, costume- and racially fueled controversy at Yale University was heightened with news in March of the firing of Melissa Click from the University of Missouri. Click, who taught in the university’s Department of Communication, was caught on video calling for “muscle” to help her eject a student journalist from a protest site on campus last November. At the time, the university faced protests over the administation’s handling of racial protests

The Click episode can be seen from two First Amendment points of view.   From one perspective, the professor was blocking student journalists exercising their First Amendment rights. From another perspective, the University of Missouri was firing her without due process because her support of protesters had angered university donors and state legislators.

In either case, this episode brings the free-speech debate issue on college campuses back to the very industry most benefitting from First Amendment’s protections – journalists. While it’s true the First Amendment was ultimately penned for the protection of Americans, the most direct beneficiaries of the Amendment’s press and speech freedoms are journalists.

So how best might the media report on the apparent rash of instances of free-speech abuses on university campuses – locations where one would expect free speech to not only be tolerated, but revered? Aren’t campuses, after all, places where preconceived notions and societies’ mores are supposed to be challenged, debated and revised?

Such university free-speech issues should encourage journalists to neither blindly advocate for freedom-of-speech nor for students seeking to censure that very same speech. Instead, journalists might strive to report more on how universities are attempting to encourage and promote respectful, responsible discussions on race and other hot-button issues.

No matter how distasteful, such constitutionally protected speech deserves a constant, contextualized airing at all colleges and universities. A perfect solution? Of course not. But encouraging ethical reporting of such divisive issues, rather than sweeping them under a politically correct rug, isn’t a bad place to begin.