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Journalism students face misinformation storm in university protests

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Journalism students face misinformation storm in university protests

One of the big issues of dissent was the issue of “outside agitators,” a narrative spread by both the Columbia administration and the NYPD that the protests were filled with protesters from outside the university community. Journalism students have also been forced to confront this: in a story about the protests, Ventura and a classmate discovered that most of the 13 outside agitators identified by the university were alumni or people associated with organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, which has a chapter at Columbia. Karam told WIRED that the Viewer He is still trying to verify these numbers. Despite reports to the contrary, New York Mayor Eric Adams still said in a statement last week that the Columbia protests had “basically been co-opted by professional outside agitators.”

Similarly, Leon Orlov-Sullivan, a reporter for the City College of New York publication The Campus, told us that the school’s statements did not make clear what it meant by “external” protesters. City College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, which means that students from other CUNY schools can often access the City College campus with their IDs.

“Media reports and messages from the administration did not make clear how many people were affiliated with the CUNY system as a whole,” Orlov-Sullivan says. “Whereas I would say that while I was at camp, the vast majority of people were somehow affiliated with a CUNY system.”

In other historyColumbia News Service’s Ventura mapped where the protests were taking place on campus, in part, he says, to help readers understand that while the encampments dominated outside headlines, they really only occupied a small portion of the campus.

Stories from journalism students in the Viewer they underwent intense editing and fact-checking knowing they would be read by an audience larger than just the student population. Each protest report went through seven rounds of edits and editors checked every line, Karam said.

Other schools where protests occurred prioritized live updates rather than debunking false claims. “We don’t feel like we necessarily have the resources or institutional support to do full fact checks,” said Cat Carroll, a reporter at the University of Wisconsin. Badger Herald newspaper, he told us. “We are the only ones here reporting live updates and providing information day in and day out.”

Elea Castiglione, student reporter for the Pennsylvania diary, the University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper, noted that police did not arrest students at their school’s protests and that the encampment was peaceful. “Each school is unique,” ​​she says. “And I think college newspapers specifically have done a really good job of focusing on what’s really happening in our schools and not neatly fitting our schools into a larger narrative of student activism right now.”

At a time when trust in the media is painfully low, journalism students managed to demonstrate the kind of skills needed to build trust within a community and reject sensationalist narratives and misinformation, even when they came from people and institutions with much more knowledge. . force.

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