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  • Lara Crigger

A Journalist's Take On Columbia


Like many of you, I’ve watched the news out of Columbia University with my heart in my throat. Jewish students harassed, threatened, and in some cases physically barred from educational buildings. Classes have gone virtual for the rest of the semester, and at least one rabbi is telling students to stay home, because the campus has become too dangerous to be visibly Jewish.


We’ve seen this before. We know where this leads.


As I doomscroll down the cliffside of history, I’ve struggled against a mounting, paralyzing terror. Because it has always been the case that what happens at Columbia University—specifically this university—has aftershocks that shake the rest of the world.


That’s because Columbia University is home to one of, if not the most prestigious journalism schools in the country. Founded in 1912 by Joseph Pulitzer—yes, that Pulitzer—the Columbia Journalism School is deeply embedded in the infrastructure of our country’s news media. The school runs the Pulitzer, duPont-Columbia, and Ellie Awards, and it publishes the trade magazine Columbia Journalism Review, dedicated to the profession and performance of journalism.


The Columbia Journalism School also churns out hundreds of elite journalists each year; in 2022, 345 students graduated from its j-school. Those students, who come from all over the world, are considered the best and the brightest rising stars in journalism, and they often go on to work at media organizations like 60 Minutes, AP, Bloomberg, POLITICO, Reuters, ABC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. (And, for that matter, known Qatari mouthpiece, Al Jazeera.)


About one-third of their graduating class is international, and those students return home to media organizations that welcome them with open arms. If you’ve heard of a news organization, chances are, there’s a Columbia grad (or several) working there.


To be a graduate of Columbia means something in journalism circles. Columbia graduates establish the voice and set the agenda for what the news media covers, and how and why—not just in the United States, but around the world.


And, as we’ve seen over the past few days, the Columbia campus is infected with deep, entrenched antisemitism. If this is where our journalists are coming from, then it’s no wonder our news media is so biased against Israel and Jews.


That’s not to say that the Columbia Journalism School itself is home to antisemites. But just as a fish can’t swim in polluted water without taking that pollution into itself, a journalism school cannot sit at the epicenter of campus antisemitism without remaining uncorrupted.


I remain more convinced than ever that our country—our world—is in dire need of a new media paradigm. While every person is entitled to an opinion, and there’s room for healthy domestic debate in our news media about international affairs, including the Israel-Hamas War, it’s clear we have a lot of de-programming to do about Israel among our journalists. All our journalists, from the freelancers and the beat reporters, up to editors-in-chief.


We are also in need of new publications. Media organizations that don’t cleave to one ideology or another, but instead prioritize facts over frameworks—organizations built around the premise that the pursuit of truth, however difficult it might be, is a worthy and noble goal (as opposed to NPR’s CEO Katherine Maher, who believes that there are “many truths,” some of which are worth pursuing while others are not).


I’m grateful to Rabbi for starting this blog. It’s been a good outlet, not just for me, but for others who have taken to its platform to capture their thoughts. But we need more. We are in need in of a whole new media apparatus—or, at least, a scouring and reclamation of the apparatus already in place.


What that looks like, I’m not sure. Like many others, I’m trying to figure it out in real-time. But I know it doesn’t lead to Jewish professors locked out of their college campuses, or Jewish kids being sent home for being “too Jewish.”


The future of media has to be better than this. For our sakes, and for our kids', and for every Jew in this world to live in safety and security once more.


 

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2 Comments


Mike Fein
Mike Fein
Apr 24

Rabbi has spoken of Barri Weiss’ “Free Press”. That is a superb publication, and I can recommend it to all sides of the aisle. $8 per month, and worth more.

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lcrigger
Apr 25
Replying to

Ever since Bari came to CGoP, I've been a regular reader. Uri Berliner's essay on bias at NPR was searing.

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