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Harvard newspaper faces boycott after reporters dare to ask ICE for comment for news story


'We did not give ICE forewarning of the protest, nor did we seek to interfere with the protest as it was occurring.'

Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Harvard University's student reporters asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a quote for a news story they were planning to publish.

Now they're facing calls for a boycott because they did their due diligence as reporters.

What are the details?

In September, Harvard Crimson reporters covered an "Abolish ICE" event at the school called Act on a Dream. Just after the article published, the newspaper found itself at the center of blowback from student activists, who said that the article on the event endangered undocumented students on campus and reeked of "cultural insensitivity."

Reporters asked the government agency for a comment after the protest. ICE, according to the outlet, "did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

The move prompted hundreds of people to sign a petition demanding that newspaper staff cease all communications with ICE.

The newspaper editors defended their work practices and pointed out that it is standard protocol to ask the subject of a story for comment.

“We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small," the editors of the Harvard Crimson said. “Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them."

In an attempt to quell the rising tide of anger, the paper's editors met with the leaders of the event and insisted that they did not share any sort of personal information about other students with the government agency.

The petition, which began to gain more traction, urged students at the university to boycott the paper by telling its reporters "no comment" when approached for any remarks on works in progress.

A portion of the petition said, "The Crimson relies on the trust of student organizations to accurately and effectively report on events happening on campus. They have violated that trust."

What's the update?

On Tuesday, the Crimson's editors shared another update about their communications with the ICE office.

"The reporters did not provide the names or immigration statuses of any individual at the protest," the editors wrote. "We did not give ICE forewarning of the protest, nor did we seek to interfere with the protest as it was occurring."

The editors also insisted that requesting comment from ICE makes their reporting more complete.

"At stake here, we believe, is one of the core tenets that defines America's free and independent press," the editors said in their Tuesday statement. "A world where news outlets categorically refuse to contact certain kinds of sources — a world where news outlets let third-party groups dictate the terms of their coverage — is a less informed, less accurate, and ultimately less democratic world."

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