The world marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall last week, and it brought back memories of a celebration that day here in the Antelope Valley.
For years, I told this story when I spoke to journalism students or students in general. My point was that journalists need to know a little bit about everything.
In those pre-Internet days, I had just returned from two years working back home in New York. I was doing reporting and working on some special projects here at the Great Suburban Newspaper.
Just after lunch, City Editor Larry Grooms came rushing out of his office and said, “Bill, it just came over the wire that the Berlin Wall is coming down. Go over to Edelweiss and find some German people to interview!”
See what I mean about needing to know a little something about everything? No Internet, no time to go to the library.
I didn’t need to be an expert on the Cold War or a scholar in German history; just needed to know enough to ask reasonably cogent questions of people who knew the subject well.
The other lesson I always conveyed, if somewhat tongue in cheek, is that it is better to be lucky than good.
I went to the German restaurant (where the Palmdale Transportation Center stands now), where several native-born Germans were in a celebratory mood.
I immediately found my story — a woman who years earlier had been smuggled from East Germany to West Germany in the trunk of a Volkswagen.
That was lucky — for her and for me.
Speaking of freedom and journalism, here is something truly frightening from the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper at America’s oldest university.
The Undergraduate Council passed a resolution at its Sunday meeting, siding with a campus immigrant rights group in essentially condemning the Crimson.
The resolution called for “more transparency” in reporting by the newspaper.
What was the Crimson’s sin? Reporters covered the immigrant group’s September demonstration on campus calling for the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. After the demonstration, they called an ICE spokesperson for comment.
The reporters did what any responsible reporters would do. They called the other side to ask for comment. This is known as fairness.
More than 900 people and several student groups signed petitions condemning the Crimson for seeking comment from ICE.
The statement from the Undergraduate Council says, “… It is necessary for the Undergraduate Council to acknowledge the concerns raised by numerous groups and students on campus over the past few weeks and to recognize the validity of their expressed fear and feelings of unsafety.”
Beyond the basic journalistic fairness, the lack of logic is astonishing. If you don’t want to call attention to your undocumented status, don’t have a demonstration on arguably America’s most prominent campus.
ICE agents are perfectly capable of reading about the demonstration in the Crimson, and if they had any intention of raiding Harvard — which I am certain they don’t — they could do it regardless of whether a reporter called seeking comment.
At least the vote was not unanimous — it was 15-13 with one abstention.
And there this bright spot: Crimson President (editor) Kristine E. Guillaume said the newspaper will continue to uphold journalistic standards and allow subjects of a story to comment.
Good for her. But the whole incident shows how bad things have gotten on college campuses when it comes to the First Amendment.
How long before editors cave to such irrational demands?
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
to Berlin; when will it come