EdMedia Commons Archive

Sacked for Sloppy Writing or a Victim of Political Correctness?

Congressional impasse over stopping loan interest rates from doubling isn’t the only cause célèbre within the higher education space: Up For Debate this time around is the legitimacy of demographic-specific programs like black studies and the due diligence required of higher education bloggers.

The Chronicle of Higher Education fired a paid blogger who wrote about her views on black studies programs, which she accused of supporting dissertations that were “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap.” After initially standing behind blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley, a prominent higher-ed journalist, The Chronicle eventually dismissed her. The paper’s editor told Poynter, “Naomi did not appear to understand the need for doing even the most cursory research for writing an opinion piece, as she explained in her response to critics.” While Riley’s blog post urged readers to read the dissertations emerging from a black studies program at Northwestern University, she admitted she herself had not read the dissertations, relying on brief summaries of the projects instead.

Between Riley’s blog post going live and her dismissal seven days later, thousands of signatures were collected through a petition that took issue with The Chronicle “giving Schaefer Riley a platform in the preeminent academic news publication” and elevating “her attacks to legitimate scholarly critique.”

In an opinion piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal defending her blog post, Riley wrote, “Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post. A number of the dissertations aren’t even available.”

In the same Poynter story, The Chronicle’s editor wrote:

She did not have to read dissertations before writing this blog post — in fact she couldn’t, since they are still in progress. But she could have done other things. As I said, we are open to publishing critiques of black studies that have more evidence to them than citing dissertation titles.

An editorial released by WSJ took The Chronicle to task for firing “Naomi Riley for doing what she was hired to do–provide a conservative point of view about current events in academe alongside the paper’s roster of mostly not-conservative academic bloggers.” 

Was Riley dismissed for lazy writing or is the issue bigger than editorial due diligence? Did The Chronicle bow to public pressure instead of supporting a blogger who came down on the wrong side of a political issue? Is something else at play here? Chime in and give us your views.



This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.