“A Note to Readers: When we published Naomi Schaefer Riley’s blog posting on Brainstorm last week (“The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations”), several thousand of you spoke out in outrage and disappointment that The Chronicle had published an article that did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us. We’ve heard you, and we have taken to heart what you said. We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog. Since Brainstorm was created five years ago, we have sought out bloggers representing a range of intellectual and political views, and we have allowed them broad freedom in topics and approach. As part of that freedom, Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley’s post was not reviewed until after it was posted. I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers. In addition, my Editor’s Note last week inviting you to debate the posting also seemed to elevate it to the level of informed opinion, which it was not. I also realize that, as the controversy unfolded last week, our response on Twitter did not accurately convey The Chronicle’s message. I sincerely apologize for the distress these incidents have caused our readers and appreciate that so many of you have made your sentiments known to us. One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.“
You told us we can do better, and we agree.”
—Liz McMillen, editor of the highly respected Chronicle of Higher Education, tossing away the integrity of her publication in a complete and cowardly capitulation to political correctness and enforced academic dogma, while trashing the principle of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas which her publication is supposed to champion.
Riley, the fired blogger, is a well-established iconoclast and critic of liberal arts institutions, which is undoubtedly why she was recruited as a blogger in the first place. Her post was a reaction to an earlier Chronicle article about rising scholars in “black studies,” and she took to the the blog to point out that the summaries of their scholarly topics in that article’s sidebar showed what was wrong with the field, at least as it was currently taught. She concluded,
“Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates. But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments. If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America. Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man.”
Whether one agrees with her opinion on black studies and the current scholars in the field or not, this is a legitimate, if provocative opinion. The tone of the blog post, contrary to editor McMillen’s note, is not uncivil but bloglike. The post is an informed opinion, because Riley was crystal-clear about what her post was based upon: the sidebar in the previous article and its collection of dissertation summaries. Many of the critical responses to Riley’s post accused her of racism; there is nothing whatsoever racist about her position, opinion, or manner of stating it, except to those whose definition of racism includes “challenging the intellectual rigor and political assumptions underlying black studies programs.”
One expects publications that pride themselves on promoting debate to stand behind authors who raise uncomfortable subjects, and not punish them. It is not as if McMillen read Ryan’s post and instantly determined, based on actual editorial standards, that it was unprofessional, uncivil, and not fit for the publication’s blog. No, it was only after Ryan was savaged by attacks on the article, in the comments to the blog, on Twitter, and in an online petition, that McMillen decided that she had made “a mistake.” The mistake was, obviously, not towing the line of liberal cant, kowtowing to the racial spoils lobby, and making sure that all contributors to her publication understood that there were some biases that were not to be challenged, ever.
This statement in her “note”–-“I sincerely apologize for the distress these incidents have caused our readers and appreciate that so many of you have made your sentiments known to us. One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve”—can stand among the most pathetic, gutless and despicable sentiments ever uttered or written by an editor, including those bowing the iron boot of a censorious totalitarian regime. Imagine—an opinion piece that causes readers distress, because it attacks their fondest conviction! Of course her readers welcome “healthy informed debate,” as long as it begins with acceptance of certain ideas that they refuse to consider might be wrong.
The betrayal of the readers of the Chronicle is in its craven failure to support and encourage opinions that run counter to its readers’ fondest assumptions.
Pointer: Poynter (!)
Facts: Weekly Standard
Sources: Chronicle of Higher Education
Graphic: Niagara U.
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