You may recall the kerfuffle a couple of weeks back involving The Chronicle of Higher Education’s decision to fire blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley for her criticism of black-studies programs. Many critics insisted it wasn’t about her point of view but her harsh language. Indeed, Chronicle editor Liz McMillen felt compelled to apologize for Riley, writing, “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.”
Well, what does the record suggest? Was Riley targeted for her views, or was her tone really out of bounds? My research assistant Taryn Hochleitner and I went to the record, checking out all Chronicle articles and blog posts that mentioned “gender studies,” “ethnic studies,” or “black studies” between April 1, 2011, and May 1, 2012 (thus not including the Riley-related back-and-forth). Of the 34 articles and blog posts in question, half used these phrases only incidentally. Of the remaining 17, eight were enthusiastic, four critical, and five balanced. When we narrowed the criteria to examine only the Chronicle articles tagged as “reporting” (and not blogs), the results were even more one-sided. There were 24 relevant articles. Of the twelve that focused on these topics, seven were generally positive and none were critical. So, not much evidence of that “journalistic standard” called even-handedness.
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