Harvard students take odd swipe at Crimson

Some students at Harvard don’t just want to abolish ICE. They also want to banish bedrock journalistic principles.

The effort is misguided on a number of fronts, and potentially counterproductive because the student activists’ big gripe was that their student newspaper drew too much attention to a protest. Since they ratcheted up their criticism with a public petition, the story has been covered by major outlets across the country.

Here are the basics: The Harvard Crimson covered a September rally calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one of the agencies carrying out President Trump’s crackdown on immigration. The reporters contacted ICE for comment, but didn’t hear back.

Revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of newsgathering and publishing, Act on a Dream, college Democrats, and other groups petitioned the Crimson to apologize for reaching out to the federal agency, claiming that asking ICE for comment is “virtually the same as tipping them off, regardless of how they are contacted.” The newspaper’s attempt to obtain the perspective of the agency in question “blatantly endangers undocumented students on our campus,” read the petition.

The criticism presumes that ICE might not have learned about the protest unless a spokesperson was contacted for comment. But, as Erik Wemple noted in the Washington Post, the petition doesn’t fault the newspaper for actually publishing an article about the protest or for quoting students by name.

The Crimson’s student leaders, Kristine Guillaume and Angela Fu, have stood behind their reporters, and clarified to readers that they didn’t provide ICE with the names of any of the protesters. They also waited until after the protest was over to seek comment.

There is a broader issue raised in the students’ petition, and it is a serious one. ICE has arrested many activists who are udocumented immigrants, and some suspect that is not coincidental, according to Vice News, which in an August article counted at least 20 such activists who had been arrested. It would be very concerning if ICE was basing its enforcement actions on people’s political speech, as opposed to legitimate issues for the federal government to focus on like safety and upholding the law.

Talking to people with a wide variety of viewpoints isn’t some hidebound rule passed down from one generation of reporters to the next. It is essential to journalism. It can safeguard the reporter from making factual errors, and it signals to readers that at least an effort was made to include all sides to a story. The student activists wouldn’t know much about what ICE has been up to if all reporters shunned speaking to anyone at the agency.

In the Crimson’s coverage of the controversy, Marion Davis, a former journalist who is now director of communications for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, lent credence to the position of the newspaper’s critics.

“I know the Crimson acted on a desire for fairness, but I have learned experience that getting both sides isn’t always what is fair, especially when one side has already made its views well known through the megaphones of government,” Davis told Crimson reporter Ruoqi Zhang. “And protecting vulnerable people is also an ethical imperative. First do no harm is the motto of the medical profession, but it has a place in journalism, too.”

Responding to an inquiry early Thursday morning, Davis clarified that she “never would advocate for a blanket no-ICE-contact policy,” and mentioned some alternatives to contacting ICE itself, such as using the agency’s earlier public statements or speaking with experts on the subject. 

Civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate says the protests against the Crimson are not something you’d expect from students at Harvard. “It’s something you’d expect from someone totally uneducated, but for these students to be questioning the way The Crimson has gone about its reporting is shocking and depressing,” he said.

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

The House approved a $1.5 billion education bill, but the measure includes the original language on accountability, not the Senate language that weakens oversight by state education officials. (State House News)

A Daily Hampshire Gazette editorial is critical of Gov. Charlie Baker’s ban on all vaping products for at least four months. “We need more information — not arbitrary authoritarian action,” the paper says. 

The Herald pounds away again at the exemption to the state public records law enjoyed by the governor and Legislature, citing the refusal of leaders to provide any record of discussions held in the weekly meeting convened by the governor, House speaker, and Senate president. (Boston Herald

Joan Vennochi says we still live in a “banned in Boston” culture and argues that — contrary to yesterday’s take in the Download — it’s worth giving attention to the citizen-initiated bill filed on Beacon Hill that makes it a crime to call someone a “bitch,” even if it there is no chance it would ever pass. (Boston Globe) Herald columnist Michael Graham says Rep. Dan Hunt’s office did more than just file the bill as a courtesy to a constituent, but tweaked the language to improve it, according to the Dorchester woman who submitted it. While the bill has generated lots of press coverage, it received no attention at the actual hearing Tuesday where it was one of scores of bills formally on the docket. No one testified for or against the measure. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque totaled his city-owned Chevy Tahoe in a single-car crash on a Saturday night in Reading last month, which was only recently publicly disclosed. (Eagle-Tribune

Kevin Schiavone has dropped his whistleblower lawsuit against the Lawrence Police Department. (Eagle-Tribune

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s campaign against the so-called “deep state” is turning against him, as career government servants become key witnesses in the impeachment case House Democrats are building. (New York Times

A Globe editorial calls Trump’s withholding of $391 million in military aid that Congress directed to Ukraine to serve his own political purposes a “breathtaking abuse of presidential power, and a betrayal of national security.” 

Wordsmiths and classics scholars break down the meaning of the Latin term “quid pro quo,” which we’ve been hearing about ad nauseum. (Boston Globe

Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, who were the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate during the Clinton impeachment trial, say they know the Senate can conduct a fair impeachment trial because they did so in 1999. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Next year’s state primary has been slotted for September 1 — prior to Labor Day — and Senate candidates Joe Kennedy and Shannon Liss-Riordan want it moved back to its usual spot following the holiday, saying the proposed date will hurt turnout. Ed Markey agrees but is less concerned about the change. (Boston Globe

Pittsfield’s two mayoral candidates — incumbent Linda Tyer and challenger Melissa Mazzeosquare off in a debate that touches on diversity hiring, crime, and financial help for Beacon Cinema. (Berkshire Eagle) Mazzeo says crime is the top issue in the race. (Berkshire Eagle) Tyer says she has a plan to deal with crime. (Berkshire Eagle)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amendments filed to Gov. Charlie Baker’s supplemental budget legislation by Republican Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg and Democrat Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik of Gardner advocate for eliminating the ability of towns in Barnstable County to make discretionary referrals for projects under 10,000 square feet to the Cape Cod Commission for review. Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro says a developer is behind the move. (Cape Cod Times)

Jon Chesto says a new economic development bill being developed by the Baker administration may contain a “Plan B” for promoting more housing in the face of its floundering Housing Choice bill. (Boston Globe

Weymouth’s housing authority is seeking private developers to help it rebuild or renovate the Lakeview Manor public housing development. (Patriot Ledger) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Some of the questions put to the hospital system CEOs at the Health Policy Commission’s cost-trends hearing evoked long and awkward silences. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION 

Jim Aloisi says state and local officials need to come up with protocols for what to do when a section of the subway system shuts down. It’s happened twice — the Red Line derailment and the Orange Line snafu on Monday — and Aloisi says it will happen again. (CommonWealth)

Massport unveils the logistics and the timetable for the new centralized Uber and Lyft pickup and drop-off protocols at Logan. The taxi protocols remain unchanged. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Global warming may be to blame for a big die-off of lobsters, fish, and eels that were deprived of oxygen on the sea floor because of warmer waters closer to the surface. The dead creatures turned up in lobster traps. (WGBH

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal agents raided a restaurant and a strip club in downtown Springfield. It was unclear exactly what they were looking for. (MassLive)

Brockton is awaiting a decision after the city’s legal team filed a motion for summary judgment in the federal lawsuit filed by Ken Williams, a former local police detective, who accused the city’s police department of fostering a culture of discrimination. (Brockton Enterprise) 

MEDIA

The Columbia Journalism Review reports on how the Colorado Sun startup is doing one year after the Denver rebellion against Alden Global Capital.