Editorial: Harvard Crimson didn’t do anything wrong with ICE


Andrea Pistolesi | TNS

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, recently became the center of controversy after reaching out to ICE for comment after an “Abolish ICE” protest.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Harvard University is supposed to welcome the best and brightest students, but it seems a good portion of them need a lesson in basic journalism.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, recently became the center of controversy with its coverage of an “Abolish ICE” protest. Reporters involved in a story about the protest reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for comment. As a result, the paper was slammed by student activists and a petition was circulated that demanded The Crimson stopped asking ICE for comment altogether. This response from the student body shows a frankly concerning lack of media literacy that must be addressed.

The controversy started with the Harvard student organization Act on a Dream, which is an advocacy group for undocumented students that opposes the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The group hosted a protest on Sept. 12 and The Crimson published an article about the event the following day. The article quoted student activists, but it was one line in particular that sparked outrage on campus.

“ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night,” the article said.

The Crimson’s editors met with leaders of Act on a Dream to explain the common journalistic practice of reaching out to parties involved or mentioned in their articles for comment. They also assured the group that no information about undocumented immigrants on campus had been shared with ICE. Days after this meeting, members of Act on a Dream, along with 10 other student groups, created a petition in which they urged their classmates to refuse requests for comment, in effect boycotting The Crimson.

“The Crimson relies on the trust of student organizations to accurately and effectively report on events happening on campus,” the petition read. “They have violated that trust. We call on The Crimson to take public accountability for their actions and take steps to change a policy that actively endangers undocumented students and members of their own staff.”

The “policy” that they mention refers to the practice of requesting comment from people and organizations involved in a story. This is common journalistic practice that allows all parties mentioned in a story to be heard and makes for clearer, more well-rounded and impactful stories. It’s a “policy” practiced by newsrooms big and small across the country and not doing so for each and every story published shows a lack of journalistic integrity. As for endangering undocumented students on campus, the editors have repeatedly assured the student body that they haven’t given ICE any personal information — and there would be no need or opportunity to do so in simply asking the organization for comment.

Harvard’s Undergraduate Council voted this week to stand in solidarity with the concerns of Act on a Dream this week, even though all of the activist group’s claims are either completely unfounded or blatant misunderstandings of how journalists do their job.

The whole controversy is absurd and there is no reason for The Crimson to receive these complaints about the article in question. The Crimson doesn’t support ICE by simply reaching out to them for comment on a protest against the organization. The contents of a news article — or even of an opinions column — doesn’t necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the newspaper. Only the editorial, like the one you’re reading now, reflects the opinions of the editorial staff of the paper.

Such a basic misunderstanding is incredibly concerning, especially coming from supposedly highly educated Harvard students.

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