An NYU journalism professor is taking fire for his plan to assign William McGowan’s Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity has Corrupted American Journalism to a graduate seminar on the First Amendment. Here’s the crux of the problem:
“I think it’s inappropriate as a teaching tool, unless you were going to teach skewed journalism,” [National Association of Black Journalists official Richard] Prince said. “The problem with the book is that it’s a polemic, and the facts are twisted to fit the argument that [McGowan] is trying to make. And that’s not journalism. It’s not objective.”
“I can’t believe that [professor] Nat Hentoff turned out this way,” Prince said. “He used to be someone you could look up to. Why isn’t he assigning books on white journalists and how they bring their own points of view and write their own biases to the media? Who writes the media after all?”
This is an example of the exceedingly silly notion that a professor’s choice of books equals promotion of said book’s ideas. We professors, good ones anyway, often assign challenging material precisely to challenge our students. No matter what you may think of McGowan’s argument, the use of his book in a class does not equal acceptance or promotion of that argument. Especially in a graduate seminar, the book will get a critical examination.
Oh, and then there’s the whole freedom of thought thing. These students have every right to consider this book and be persuaded by its argument if they so choose. It’s called academic freedom. It’s called freedom of association. It’s called freedom of speech.