Angela Poe Russell: Don’t fall for this trap when watching the news

May 8, 2024, 6:10 AM | Updated: 1:59 pm

news protests college campuses...

University police are confronted by protestors as they block access to the Main Quadrangle on the University of Chicago campus while they break up a pro-Palestinian encampment on May 07, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

(Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

While watching news coverage of the protests on college campuses, one segment caught my attention. A TV Anchor reacting to a Forbes report about some employers hiring fewer Ivy League school graduates. The main reason had nothing to do with the protests but with Ivy League universities’ recruiting being more about specialists than well-rounded students.

But this anchor used the report as an opportunity to stir up a culture war. North vs. south. Elite private institutions vs. public universities. All while saying, “See? This is why they don’t want to hire you.”

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While criticizing a school’s handling of a situation is fair and so is student behavior, good journalists know better than to make blanket statements about a group or a place. Having worked for years as a reporter, I know that within crowds are many stories and journalists should share them and offer context and nuance.

Columbia University has more than 30,000 students, either undergraduate or graduate level.

If you compare that population to the number of on-campus protestors, it becomes impossible to talk about any university as if the students and their motivations or methods for protesting are exactly the same.

When Columbia’s school newspaper polled more than 700 students, 45% hoped the protestors’ demands were met. So just under half. When asked if the disruption was worth it, 31% said they felt cheated out of their “Columbia experience.”

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The bottom line is anytime we label an entire group, we don’t see the whole story. Most importantly, we miss out on the opportunity to see each other and what we have in common. There is enough conflict in our world without someone stirring up a culture war. There are privileged kids at public schools and poor kids within Ivy Leagues. Some protestors are hateful and others are seeking peace.

We as consumers are capable of complexity. So, I suggest we seek out news outlets that give this to us.

Angela Poe Russell fills in as a host on KIRO Newsradio and has been around Seattle media in different capacities for a number of years.

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Angela Poe Russell: Don’t fall for this trap when watching the news