NYU Professor Stifles Blogging, Twittering by Journalism Student

    by Mark Glaser
    September 17, 2008
    NYU student and blogger Alana Taylor
    NYU logo.jpg

    After New York University journalism student Alana Taylor wrote her first embed report for MediaShift on September 5, it didn’t take long for her scathing criticism of NYU to spread around the web and stir conversations. Taylor thought that her professor, Mary Quigley, was not up to speed on social media and podcasting — even though the class she was teaching was called “Reporting Gen Y.” And Taylor felt that NYU was not offering her enough classes about new media; she cited the requirement that students bring print editions of the New York Times to class as one example of their outdated mindset.

    Not surprisingly, Quigley was not happy with the story and was upset that Taylor had not sought permission to write her first-person report about the class, and told Taylor it was an invasion of privacy to other students in the class. By Taylor’s account, Quigley had a one-on-one meeting with Taylor to discuss the article, and Quigley made it clear that Taylor was not to blog, Twitter or write about the class again. That was upsetting to Taylor, who had been planning a follow-up report for MediaShift that would include Quigley’s viewpoint and interviews with faculty.

    Taylor described to me what happened when Quigley brought up the article in class later.


    “She told the class to read the article,” Taylor said. “Then she asked, ‘You all read Alana’s article, what did you think about it?’ There was silence for a good 30 or 45 seconds, and it was awkward and weird. And she said, ‘OK, we can all agree that there will be no more blogging or Twittering about the class.’ It was weird. It seemed like the students were scared to say anything.”

    Later, some students in the class asked Taylor outside of class what she did wrong. She explained that according to Quigley, it would be an invasion of the students’ privacy if she wrote about the class. Another student told her, “I didn’t want to say anything in class but I really loved the piece and totally agreed with everything you said.” (The other students in the class did not want to be identified in this story.)

    Because Taylor felt that writing a follow-up for MediaShift was not a good idea in light of her professor’s admonition, I decided to take on the task of finding out why a journalism student at NYU would not be allowed to report on what was going on in her classroom. First, I wondered what NYU’s policy was on blogging in or about a class. It ends up that there is no policy.

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    Brooke Kroeger

    “We don’t have a policy,” said Brooke Kroeger, director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU (the journalism school was recently renamed). “Truthfully it’s never come up before. It’s not the sort of thing that we would control. Professors make their own choices about grading, about deadlines, about standards, about classroom participation — it’s not something we legislate. They’re decided by the instructors generally.”

    Kroeger would not talk specifically about Taylor’s piece for MediaShift because she said legally she is not allowed to talk about a student’s performance in public. She defended Quigley’s decision to restrict live-blogging and Twittering because it would be a distraction in a classroom, and said professors could choose their own appropriate policy restricing or allowing students to report afterward on what went on in class.

    “Given the new means of communication and how instantaneous they are, it might be a good subject for a forum,” Kroeger said. “If you follow the Chronicle of Higher Education, you’ll see people come on and talk about IM’ing in class and texting in classes, and it’s distracting. People aren’t excited about that in any circumstance. But on the other hand, we’re providing a total WiFi environment with computers in your face.”

    Permission Before Blogging

    When I approached Quigley to have her explain her ban on blogging, Twittering and writing about what goes on in her class, she at first directed my query to Kroeger. Later, she wrote back to me by email:

    I will confirm that I asked the class not to text, email or make cell phone calls during class. It’s distracting to both me and other students, especially in a small class seated around a conference table. This has always been my policy, and I would hazard a guess that it’s the policy of many professors no matter the discipline.

    However, I did say after the class session they were free to text, Twitter, blog, email, post on Facebook or whatever outlet they wanted about the course, my teaching, the content, etc. And, because much of the subject matter of this course relates to them and their Gen Y experiences I would not be surprised if they did. At this point, as a course requirement, they all have blogs. [Emphasis added by her.]


    Mary Quigley

    So was Quigley now softening her stance on students writing about the substance of her class? When I followed up and asked her whether that meant students still needed to get permission before writing about class, she said: “Yes, I would certainly require a student to ask permission to use direct quotes from the class on a blog written after class.”

    I wondered if there was a legal basis for NYU requiring students to get permission before live-blogging or even writing about a class afterwards. As a private school, NYU might be able to restrict a student’s reporting on what went on in a classroom — but that would go against everything that journalism schools are teaching students about the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

    William Creeley is the director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which helps defend students’ free speech rights. Creeley said that NYU might have legal grounds for restricting what students write about classroom activities, but that it would look hypocritical for a school that touts freedom of the press.

    “While it might be technically true [that a private school could restrict speech], it would be evidence of an awfully meager interpretration of the rights of free expression which NYU explicitly guarantees its students in its promotional materials and its student handbook,” said Creeley, who got his undegraduate and law school degrees from NYU. “They could make that claim but I don’t know if that would be consistent with their imagination of themselves as a modern university with those rights guaranteed.”

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    William Creeley

    As for the claim that live-blogging would be an invasion of privacy, Creeley thought it was more of a red herring.

    “The idea that live-blogging or Twittering would be an invasion of privacy — from a legal standpoint, that doesn’t hold water,” he said. “There’s no possible expectation on the teacher’s part for privacy about what is taught in the classroom. If that’s the case, then no one could write a teacher feedback form at the end of class. That would go out the window. That’s a far cry from what goes on in one’s own home, or in a telephone coversation or email exchange.”

    Floyd Abrams is a veteran media lawyer who has argued First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court, and is a partner at Cahill, Gordon & Reindel. He thought that a rule banning live-blogging or Twittering in class made sense, but restricting coverage outside class was not going to work. Here is part of an email he sent me on the subject:

    Students have irritated their professors for years. William F. Buckley’s ‘God and Man at Yale’ was a best-selling early 1950s expose of what Buckley viewed as the teaching to Yale undergraduates of left-wing, collectivist, godless mush. Professors objected to the notion that what they said in class should be publically revealed and claimed that such revelations would be ‘chilling.’ Just a few years ago, Columbia undergraduates who viewed certain pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli statements of certain professors as being false, misleading and sometimes intimidating went public to newspapers, in films, and the like expressing their dismay. Once again, the professors and others in the faculty believed that such criticism — based on what had been said in class — was inappropriate.

    I disagree. My own view is that while student commentary that is critical of ongoing classes can lead to a level of tension in class at the same time it makes extremely difficult a teacher-student relationship…it does not violate the ‘privacy’ of the classroom and should not be banned or punished. Would it be llegal to do so? It certainly wouldn’t be unconstitutional since NYU isn’t a state school and thus subject to First Amendment limitations. Whether it violates NYU rules I have no idea. I would be very surprised, however, if NYU permitted a student to be punished for writing such a critique. Surprised and disappointed.

    Consulting the NYU Journalism Handbook

    So what kind of applicable rules does NYU have in its Journalism Handbook for Students? The Handbook’s author, NYU assistant professor and tech journalist Adam Penenberg, was quick to point me to a passage that would call into question Taylor’s “undercover” reporting technique:

    Before engaging in any undercover work for a class assignment, consult your professor. Carefully consider whether your reporting could violate criminal or civil law. Weigh the potential harm involved. Could relying on subterfuge get you arrested? Could it lead to violence? Does it invade someone’s privacy, especially in a non-public area like a home or an office? Are there laws in your state against recording without a person’s permission, or specifically against using hidden cameras? Might it undermine the validity of your story? These are serious questions to consider.

    Penenberg thought that I should have required Taylor to get permission from her professor before writing about the class, even though it would be a moot point to ask permission to go undercover of the person who is the subject of the story. Penenberg explains that there is a difference in classroom discussions when they are private or for public discussion, and that the tenor would change if students and professor knew they were being recorded by a journalist or blogger.

    “I have taught classes in which the tenor of conversation could have changed drastically if a student were to announce that she were going to blog about it,” he said. “For example, in a media ethics course we talked about naming the accused in rape cases but not the alleged victim. This, as you can imagine, led to a very contentious debate, because false accusations can ruin a life and career. In a classroom you are safe to express unpopular opinions but you probably wouldn’t do it if you felt it would end up on a blog post somewhere.”

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    Adam Penenberg

    Penenberg said that the school’s policy is that they would require a student to ask permission before live-blogging a class or blogging about it after the fact or writing an article.

    “That said, I already allow students to blog about a [grad school] class I teach,” he said. “As part of my syllabus for ‘Guerrilla News,’ I have students blog about their multimedia projects, and that includes, if they so choose, to blog about what transpires inside and outside of class. I invite speakers to come in and students can blog about that, too. Part of the blog focus is to help students research their topic more thoroughly; the other is to be the ‘reality show’ behind the making of their multimedia project. But another professor might feel differently.”

    While Penenberg touted the multimedia strengths of NYU’s journalism graduate program, Kroeger defended the undergraduate program by saying that new media was not shunted off into specialized classes but weaved into basic courses. She noted that classes now employed “beat blogs,” a specialty of NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who also teaches an undergraduate course on “The Rise of the Web.”

    I asked Rosen what he thought would be the right policy about students blogging about their classes.

    “Often our policy discussions begin when an incident occurs and we have to think about it…‘what’s our policy?’” he said via email. “This story may well have that effect. And the handbook, a faculty document, may well prohibit what Alana did; but to me that is not necessarily the key question because the handbook is ours to write and re-write. It has to adapt. I’m not sure what the ‘right’ policy is, Mark. I know that when a journalist wants to write about [or film] an NYU class we are required to get privacy waivers…It’s not clear to me that NYU would even allow us to have a faculty policy that reporting on a class without privacy waivers is okay, as long as you are embedded and undercover. That’s the kind of thing we have to know before we re-write a handbook or make rules for students.”

    Kroeger, meanwhile, defends the decisions of her professors to set rules around blogging and writing about their classes, and thinks a forum on the topic would be a good way to share knowledge with other schools and brainstorm ideas. When I told her that NYU as a private school could legally restrict students from writing about classes, she demurred from that option.

    “You could say that, but that’s not the way I would address this,” she said. “I just wouldn’t go there. In the end we have the same issues that any academic institution would have. It’s not quite a pure journalistic experience, it’s a classroom experience also, and there are some values that come into chafing. There’s a little bit of awkwardness there and we want to teach journalism and the highest level of journalism and all that that entails.”

    What do you think? Should journalism schools restrict live-blogging or Twittering in class as distractions or use them as teaching tools? Should students be required to get permission before writing about what goes on in their classrooms? Share your thoughts or academic experiences in the comments below.

    Tagged: censorship education microblogging nyu twitter

    61 responses to “NYU Professor Stifles Blogging, Twittering by Journalism Student”

    1. Congratulations Mark and Alana – Mark for providing the blog and Alana, for stirring things up in the world of Ivory Towers.

      I’m not in academics, so I’ll probably lay of this discussion (at least for a while.)

      Suffice to say it is a very important topic and one that needed to see sunlight.

    2. As a teacher myself, I think that the attitude on display by the faculty is abhorrent but sadly typical.

      I’d wager that if Alana wrote a glowing, positive post about NYU’s journalism program, or even wrote a negative post on a less visible blog, that she’d never have been reprimanded and that nobody would be talking about how to restrict access to bloggers on campus.

      Worst of all is Quigley’s decision to shame Alana in front of her peers for writing the post in question. It seems like proof that her behavior here is a bit petty, an authority trip meant to salve a bruised ego.

      If I found out that my students had ever blogged critical remarks about me, I’d be thankful they were writing.

    3. Digidave says:

      that’s one big booya.

    4. I´m with Adam Penenberg on this one. In the interest of candid, open discussion during a class, privacy helps. I ask that commitment up front from professional journalists who attend my training seminars. I want them to feel free to say what they really think without fear of showing up in the column of some colleague who is desperate for material after returning from training.

      The student has a right to publish anything she wants about what went on in the class, and her opinions about the professor are fair game. But there is something slightly sneaky about the way the student operated. If she had been open and up front ahead of time, fine.

    5. paul lowe says:

      As a lecturer at a journalism school at a UK university in London, we use blogs on our course as a central part of the student’s reflective practice, deploying them to act as learning journals and to assist in building a community of practice collaboratively. As part of this, we have found that the blogs, because of their more informal nature, are a great vehicle for healthy critiques of the course itself, in both positive and negative ways, and we actively encourage this kind of feedback as it is far more valuable that the kind usually obtained from anonymous student feedback questionnaires and the like, as it is precisely focused on the course itself, not abstract concepts about student satisfaction etc.
      getting this kind of real time feedback about the course means that we can quickly respond when students feel that they are not getting what the need, and also celebrate with them when the feedback is more positive. This keeps us on our toes and prevents us from falling into complacency and stagnation, and is especially useful on newer, innovative courses as we acknowledge that we are unlikely to get it right every time, especially in the beginning.

      In terms of the details of this particular case, it seems that asking students to keep a blog as part of their studies and then denying them the possibility of writing about their studies in it seems counterintuitive, we make it clear from the very beginning that the blogs should offer a ‘warts and all’ description of the students learning journey.

      Blogs are a fantastic tool for reflective learning, but they cannot be deployed without thinking through the implications of the relationship between private and public spheres, especially in terms of professional practice – in fact they offer a perfect opportunity for students to explore these boundaries in a relatively safe environment, a kind of sandbox to explore what we characterise as professional not confessional.

      But they do have a public face and students need to be aware of the implications of this – one student of ours had their blog read by a client who was not too impressed with their descriptions of the PR company that had set up a story they had been assigned to cover.

      So we have established up a clear set of rules of netiquette that cover how to post about others work , the course etc that serve to act as guidelines for how the bloggers can navigate these treacherous waters.

      but as an honest, authentic insight into learners experiences, i find em invaluable in enhancing the ‘connected knowledge’ that i have with my students, and that they have with each other.

    6. Mark,

      Why are you teaching a budding journalist to violate a basic tenet of journalism? We don’t routinely sneak around and ambush people and make their comments public without their knowledge (real ’embedded’ journalists are clearly identified, by the way). Sure, there are cases where journalists have to do that. But I don’t understand why you would choose to do it in this case.

      I got trained, and I bet you did, too, that things were off the record if I hadn’t identified myself as a journalist. At that point, people got the option to go off the record only if there was no other way to get the information.

      Is there a reason why the student wouldn’t disclose to the teacher what she wanted to do? It’s possibly an interesting way to think about the class, though frankly it seems like she was trying to avoid doing any actual creative work in social journalism. ‘Gee, if we blog about what goes on in our class, we won’t have to do any actual homework.’

      You also have no business writing about it. You sent her in to do this. Then you try to cloak your out-and-out mistake as some kind of journalism ethics dilemma. MediaShift seems to have an extra letter in it.

      Michael Fitzgerald

    7. edward allen says:

      So now we have an academic censoring a reporter for what she wrote. What is the surprise there. The academic community talks bravely about the First Amendment and freedom of the press, just as long as it doesn’t apply to what happens behind their closed doors. So what is Quigley going to do if Taylor defies the professor and continues to blog. I would encourage her to do so. Part of the requirement of journalism courses is to demonstrate an ability to write a story, and she has a great story to cover here.

    8. Censorship and First Amendment violation claims aside, all this could have been avoided if the student had simply asked to report on her class. I presume PBS was paying her, no?
      If that’s the case, and it likely is, then the student is now commercializing the class, drawing off the professor’s knowledge to make a buck. That doesn’t seem right either.

    9. Emon says:

      I don’t understand where this ‘live-blogging’ came from because reading Taylor’s original post did not give the impression that she had.

      What was so wrong about her original post? Didn’t Quigley know in advance Taylor has a blog? Did she make out Quigley to be an ignorant in her piece? Is she saying that the quotes attributed to her in the piece were false?

      Is she saying she did not make the comment, among others:
      ‘one of the character traits of our generation was an unwillingness to interact with people face to face because we “spend so much time online.” ‘?

      Did Quigley ask Taylor’s permission before ‘outing’ her in class? Is she a mind-reader to interpret the class’s silence as a vote that Taylor is not to blog anymore?

      The MediaShift post was open to public wasn’t it? If Quigley thought she was misunderstood, why didn’t she respond with a comment?

      For people who go on and on about ‘real journalism’ vs. blogging…please don’t. It makes you not come off as intelligent.

    10. Michael F.,
      I agree with you that Alana should have got her teacher’s point of view for her first story. But she told me that she didn’t think she would be able to give an honest assessment of what happened in the class if she had told her teacher ahead of time. I said the only way I would run that initial post was if she would go to her teacher and other faculty at NYU and get their side of the story for a follow-up post.

      When she tried to do that after the first post, she was told not to ever write about the class again and the teacher refused to be interviewed by her. I think once Alana hit a wall and didn’t feel comfortable writing about the class, it was fair game for me to write about what had happened to her. I didn’t pretend that I was an impartial observer, and was clear about my own involvement in the story.

      Michel M.,
      Alana did the work for me without pay, so we were not “drawing off the professor’s knowledge to make a buck.”

    11. Meg Fowler says:

      I think there should be some form of permission requested when it comes to quoting other students in a public piece, but I don’t think Alana would err on the side of disrespect there at all.

      However, I think publishing your opinion online about a class and the subject matter of that class — especially given the venue and the topic — would be something the teacher would welcome as a rather natural step in the organic development of “new” journalism education.

      If it’s “Reporting Gen Y” you want to discuss, you’d think there would be a ton of encouragement on Gen Yers to… I don’t know, report?

    12. Mark Olsen says:

      This is very similar to what we see in the corporate world. Many of our current set of executives in various industries are out of touch with the new online world. Though they want to understand it they don’t. (this of course does not apply to the entire group) It has been my experience that even those who pretend to understand it really don’t. The only way to truly ‘get it’ is to do it. Blog, comment, tweet, friend, link, etc. The worst is to have an exec who tries to be on top of it by insisting on approving everything you do. This is the internet – lightning fast – we don’t have time to get bureaucratic. Quiqley needs to know that Alana will be blogging, tweeting etc. and Alana needs to exercise some restraint and professionalism in how and what she writes. Alana did a great job with her first post and ought to keep at it.

    13. Erin says:

      Leaving aside the ludicrous “undercover reporting” theory, what interests me the most is the repeated objection that students might not speak freely if they knew their observations might end up on a blog.

      Yet many of the classes require the students to create blogs; even were that not the case, most students surely assume that their classmates have blogs and/or accounts on social media sites where they might discuss what goes on in class.

      It seems to me that the objection itself is indicative of a near-obsolete way of thinking about privacy and academic discourse. The generation moving into college right now has an expectation that they have the right (I’m speaking a social right more than a legal one, which frankly doesn’t cross the mind of most college-age bloggers and Twitterers) to journal, publicly, almost every moment of their lives; if NYU and other institutions want to limit that perceived right, I believe the onus is on them to make their policies clear at the outset.

    14. I think there is a major shift that needs to occur in teaching pedagogy. There is this idea out there that the professor is there to impart information to the students. Social media opens up the conversation for more participation. Utilizing instead of fighting the tools and communities is going to get us a lot further in our education. For a great discussion on Social Media in the classroom check out http://twitterhandbook.com/blog/using-twitter-to-make-history-and-create-the-future-twitter-in-the-classroom/. I think Michael Wesch would take a much different approach to the “problem” than Professor Quigley.

    15. Jim says:

      If the blog had been a booster piece the instructor would have probably asked them all to read it. Ask permission to write about a class you’re paying to take? Nah.

    16. Excellent piece of journalism, Mark.
      And bravo to Alana for her bravery and intellectual honesty.

      The NYU folks need a civics lesson. Legally, a private university can indeed limit coverage in class, moreso than a public college. But the university cannot limit a U.S. citizen from exercising her right of free speech outside of class.

      As a journalism professor myself, and as a print newspaper columnist, I can say I often learn more from the negative comments I get than from the praise.

      That’s what free speech is about. Too often, to paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, we confuse dissent with disloyalty.

      Taylor was showing loyalty to freedom and democratic principles. Good for her.

      And great for Mark Glaser for getting inside journalism classrooms. Feel free to embed someone in my classes. Even if it the results hurt, I will learn from it.

      jack zibluk
      arkansas state

    17. Excellent piece of journalism, Mark.
      And bravo to Alana for her bravery and intellectual honesty.

      The NYU folks need a civics lesson. Legally, a private university can indeed limit coverage in class, moreso than a public college. But the university cannot limit a U.S. citizen from exercising her right of free speech outside of class.

      As a journalism professor myself, and as a print newspaper columnist, I can say I often learn more from the negative comments I get than from the praise.

      That’s what free speech is about. Too often, to paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, we confuse dissent with disloyalty.

      Taylor was showing loyalty to freedom and democratic principles. Good for her.

      And great for Mark Glaser for getting inside journalism classrooms. Feel free to embed someone in my classes. Even if it the results hurt, I will learn from it.

      jack zibluk
      arkansas state

    18. Michael J. Fitzgerald says:

      The whole notion of professors ‘professing’ has gone the way of the Great Auk in the last 10 years, fueled by both the changes and opportunities afforded by technology.

      Generally, I love the concept of blogging (I have five that I use to spout all kinds of things.) A blog is a fantastic tool and lets journalism students publish and have their work be scrutinized relatively easily by many people, not just the professor.

      Blog on, I say, but don’t expect to criticize someone and then retreat behind the First Amendment when they get cranky.

      One thing has not changed in the 25-plus years I have been teaching journalism: some students think their professors are out of touch.

      Some are, of course, though usually not as quite as much as the student might believe.

      The difference in 2008 is that students can tell the world that they believe their prof is clueless, perhaps embarrassing themselves in the process, and maybe getting lots of attention in this celebrity-crazed culture in which we live.

      Maybe that’s the point.

    19. Afi Scruggs says:

      I’ve been a journalist for 20 years. I’ve been a reporter and a columnist. Whenever I planned to write a critical column – and I wrote my share – I informed my source of my intention before I interviewed them. I also gave the right to answer my points by raising them in the interview.

      That’s why I believe the first ethical mistake was Alana’s. She should have informed the class that 1) she was going to blog about the class and 2) she was going to quote them.

      Then she should have interviewed them.
      Doing so wouldn’t have hindered her right to express her opinion. If anything, it would have enriched the article.

      But she didn’t do that. So why is she surprised that the professor ambushed her. That’s turnabout. And it doesn’t feel good, does it?

    20. These were JOURNALISM students and they were afraid to speak up in class to express their opinion of the article she wrote? Shame. Would rather have a class full of muckrackers than a class full of sheep anyday.

    21. Hi Mark,

      I went back and read her original story and I’m not sure why you would publish it on Mediashift. The source was not given a chance to respond before publication. That’s a basic breakdown in journalistic ethics. She wrote a journal entry that of course she could post on her blog. But you put it on MediaShift. Writing a thousand-word assessment of whether the school can then ban the student from blogging about the class misses the point completely.

      Michael F. Fitzgerald

    22. Would it be “inappropriate” for a student to write down another student’s quote in her paper notes and then later write/blog about it? If not (and I’m guessing the professor’s not yet prohibiting writing down what other students say), what’s the difference?

    23. She can post anything she wants on her own blog. As she says herself in the comments on her original post, her blog is a place for personal thoughts. But she didn’t post it on her blog. Mark posted it on MediaShift. I’m not trying to be all high and mighty here. But Mark shouldn’t be calling it undercover journalism or embed reporting or anything of the sort.

      The question he’s raising is okay, but c’mon. She wrote a diary entry about a journalism class.

    24. paul lowe says:

      i think the point is that anyone using blogs in an educational context should lay out the ground rules for the project in advance of starting it, making clear what territory the blogs are to cover and in what way. Simply asking students to blog without any context is not enough; if you dont set out guidelines you are opening pandoras box and you cant ask students to set up a blog and then object to what they write on it if you dont give them some direction in advance.
      As blogs are publically viewable and searchable, this blog could well have surfaced to anyone interested in journalism education at nyu or mediashift for example anyway..
      We have lots of potential applicants to our course for example who apply because they have read the blogs of current students that they find by looking for search terms relevant to the subject area we cover- and michael wesch’s auto searching of blogs would have picked it up if it as relevant to his area of interest I’m sure…..

    25. Suzy Pink says:

      Well, I can hardly blame the professor. What if she liveblogged or twittered during class about her students? That would be unprofessional and an invasion of students’ privacy as well. Probably Alana should have waited til the semester was over before she disclosed all and then even disguised the professor’s identity. But, she’s a student and entitled to do dumb things that we can all learn from. I don’t think any permanent damage was done. I also don’t think its a bad idea to pay attention in class instead of using a blog as your notebook.

    26. sarah says:

      It seems like that NYU is the one at fault here, mainly because a journalism teaching moment was lost. Media Shift perhaps should share some of the blame as well. Instead of using this as an opportunity to discuss with Alana and the other students the gray areas that blogging and new media have created for journalism ethics, NYU went on the defensive, while Media Shift became self-righteous about free speech. Fitzgerald is right on. Journalists are not spies. We are open about the fact that what people say to us may go into print, or onto the internet, or the airwaves. Sometimes it is harder to get people to speak honestly when they know what they say will be published, yes. But that is why there are journalism schools in the first place. To teach the ethics that underpin the profession, and the skills needed to ply the trade.

      Alana probably knows more than her professor about twittering, facebook and so on – I am an alumna of the NYU journalism school myself and was taught diddly-squat about the internet. But, her professor is more experienced in journalism, and should have used the moment to teach her about why it is so important for journalists to be open and truthful about their intentions when they are seeking to convince others to open up and tell the truth.

    27. Mark, I’m Alana’s brother and I first wanted to thank you for taking such an interest into investigating what the real background in one of these situations is.

      What I wanted to say is that I don’t see anyone mentioning (and I don’t know whether this has been covered before) the difference between observational reporting and introspection. Alana’s piece (as with most blogging) is largely an introspective piece. The point is to be able to distinguish the difference between opinion and fact, right?

      I don’t see anyone arguing the facts. I see people arguing her opinion. In the world of professional journalism, there is a code of conduct. If Alana is your journalist, then I would say she did a poor job of following old world expectations. If, on the other hand, Alana is your blogger, then the expectations and trust you want your readers to hold is completely up to you in this brave, new world.

    28. Michael J. Fitzgerald says:

      Re: “Alana’s piece (as with most blogging) is largely an introspective piece.”

      I’m not sure that statement rings true – at least not with the modifier “most” attached.

      I would accept “some” for the sake of argument.

    29. @Michael J. Fitzgerald Definition of blog from dictionary.com: an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts. Definition of diary: a daily record, usually private, esp. of the writer’s own experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc. Definition of usual: habitual or customary

      Should I go on?

    30. She’s blacklisted as far as I am concerned. All these kids wanna give their opinions, not be actual journalists. She betrayed her professor. In my newsroom, she’d be first to call Keith Kelly.

    31. Claire says:

      I think there is a time to blog, twitter, etc. and a time not to do so in class. Most times, I think it is truly a distraction and takes the student’s mind off the potential learning experience.

      However, I can see having a period when it is announced that one can blog or twitter during a specified period, so everyone will know they are being observed and possibly recorded.

      Classrooms should be private to protect individuals’ privacy. Shy students may be less likely to participate if they feel everything is going out on the web.

    32. Ron Miller says:

      When I first saw Alana’s piece on Media Shift, my reaction was, here’s a young woman who totally gets it. She clearly doesn’t need Quigley or NYU.She’s already a journalist with modern journalism instincts walking the walk, not talking the talk.

      Clearly, in this case, being in a classroom is stifling Taylor as a journalist and as a citizen, not enriching her journalism education or proving with any additional skills. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. What kind of message is that for a class of young journalism students in a class that’s supposed to on modern journalism techniques?

      She was doing exactly what I would encourage young journalists to be doing, and to take it personally and admonish her for it, is completely the wrong approach.

      Alana should just keep on doing what she’s doing because what she’s doing is exactly right.

    33. @Ron Miller I completely agree, coming from a journalism background myself the way of journalism isn’t just to present facts and ‘two sides of the story’ – It hasn’t been for a long time!

      Surely anyone familiar with the world knows that there are more than two sides to a story, and there is little expectation or right of privacy anywhere, anytime.

      This is a world of instant communication, whether it be positive or negative, from a reputable source or full of ‘spin’. You can’t fight the communication, but you can embrace it and use it for good.

      Even a scathing piece (which Alana’s is not, it’s an opinion piece from one very educated young person) deserves to be published.

      Surely young journalists (whether taught it in schools or not) realize that journalism isn’t just about being fair and balanced any more, it’s about personifying your story, showing the essence, and working toward the truth of the story.

      In a world of bloggers and always-on information flowing free, professors and schools themselves cannot expect not to find students conversing and talking about classes.

      Students have always talked about professors and classes, the only thing that has changed is the medium.

    34. Heather Steely says:

      I’m curious to know how many of these comments came from individuals who actually read the original blog entry that started this debate. From what I read, I found Alana to be full of criticism with zero ambition to find a solution–unless, of course, she’s used to airing her problems so others can clean up for her. Her remarks were intentionally inflammatory simply to spark debate for debate’s sake. If she actually expected to instigate change in her curriculum for the better, she would have included ideas about how to improve the situation, or would have engaged her readers to see what ideas they might have to do so. That’s the beauty of blogging! Plus, she certainly had the opportunity to discuss her concerns with her professor before she ever posted the original blog. Yet she did none of those things.

    35. Michael J. Fitzgerald says:

      Response to Robert Taylor:

      While I agree many blogs certainly are just diaries (as your posting says), I think it’s obvious many are used for purposes other than just a personal chronological log of thoughts.

      If it’s personal, I wonder what is it doing on the Internet?

      I have students every semester who are surprised when their blogs – either columns or news summaries – are read (and sometimes criticized) by people from all over the globe.

      A blog is personal? Maybe at the moment it was written.

      How blogs are used is changing, a point with which even Alana might agree.

    36. Larry Gillick says:

      Considering that she self-identified (in class) as an active blogger, I’m wondering why anyone would be surprised that she would blog about her classes. What a waste of a teachable moment.

    37. Mihaela V says:

      This is what I see the big picture of this story to be:

      Blogging (and much of social media) bring more transparency, empower the “masses” and threaten authority by bringing down the Golden Wall.

      This is happening a lot in business. It’s scary for corporations, and empowering for consumers.

      Why shouldn’t it also happen in education?

      I am a college prof., I require students to blog and am planning to teach them to live-twitter the class next week.

      Yes, I know it’s scary – for me. For the old idea of the “powerful, know-it-all” professor who taught critical thinking and thought it was OK as long as s/he wasn’t the subject of criticism.

      I sometimes teach my students critical theory by exposing my own power & authority practices in the classroom.

      The world has changed. The education model we use is the same as hundreds of years ago: The professor is the “master.”

      Enough is enough. We don’t have to be masters and servants. We can help each other and learn together.

      Alana and prof. Quigley have a lot to learn from each other. Why don’t they?

    38. I teach public relations in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Drake University. This is my first year teaching at Drake, and just yesterday I started a blog called “Adventures in Teaching and Blogging.” (www.lisalockwood.wordpress.com) I stumbled onto this site and debate in looking for ways to promote my own new blog.

      My reasons for entering the blogosphere are exactly because of students like Alana who know more about blogging, twittering, tweeting, social networking, etc…than I do. I truly believe these kinds of online activities are changing the course of journalism in general and certainly public relations practices in particular. I don’t want to be left behind in the dinosaur era of journalism. As a journalism educator, I feel a serious responsibility to learn all this new media along with my students.

      I totally agree with Mihaela V who says it is scary. That’s kind of the nature of change. It’s scary, but so is NOT changing in such a rapidly changing realm.

      I have two questions about the Alana/Quigly issue:

      What’s the point of an education if students can’t graduate from an educational institution and perform in “the real world” (as we sometimes call it in academia)?

      What if educators aren’t able to teach students the knowledge and skills needed to perform after graduation?

    39. This is an interesting case, to say the least. I teach in the communication department at a regional campus of Indiana University. I encourage my students to utilize new media technologies for assignments or class projects, simply because I know it’s the medium they use to communicate among their peers. In doing this, I want them to see the range of applications for the technology as well as improve their overall communication skills.

      In class, though, I do not appreciate it when students text message, blog or use other distracting tools that aren’t relevant to the conversation at hand. Personally it’s disrespectful to me and the rest of the class. And I really don’t have much of a problem with it to tell you the truth.

      The idea of new media journalism is, well, new. And I think we’ll be learning about the ramifications of these tools in time, but for now we still use preconceived notions of traditional journalism when thinking about these tools.

      As for asking permission, I would think Alana might have at least received a verbal permission from her classmates or before using the photo taken during the break. Granted, one can argue this is a private commentary and not traditional journalism per se, so permission might not be required (I’m not a lawyer, so please correct me if I’m wrong). But then there’s just common courtesy. The flip side of it is that as an instructor, I know students talk about us behind our backs (good and bad). That’s life. Look at ratemyprofessor.com. A long time ago it took place in the hallowed halls of the institution, now it’s in the hallowed gigabytes of one’s laptop.

    40. Ken Okel says:

      I worry that the fast paced changes in social media may be too fast for the traditional classroom. This is not simply the change from Beta to Digital but a rapidly evolving way that the world communicates.

      Many older newspaper employees have told me they’ve been overwhelmed by the new technology they are now required to use as part of their daily job. As soon as they master it, something else will likely come along.

    41. Farouet says:

      Setting up an ‘exercise’ on ‘reporting a class’ makes sense. Having an opinion about a teacher is natural. I’m not comfortable with seeing student writers as ‘journalists’ in the professional sense, even journalism students. They’re not ‘certified’ yet as having been grounded in it all.

      Electronics can be abused, as well. It may not be a violation of legal privacy, but it likely violates the professional contract of the teacher whose verbatim instruction, becomes, in effect, reportable to departments, deans, administrations.

      Don’t worry exclusively about the ‘chill’ of press freedom; think about the restrictive ‘chill’ you might feel as an employee — do feel as an employee — knowing your boss can watch and listen to everything you do.
      There might indeed be a privacy violation against particular class members. There certainly is a restrictive intrusion against the teacher’s freedom to handle the class.

      Sending out opinions of a course is one thing. To pretend as an enrollee to a reportorial objectivity is flatly challengeable on its face.

      Recording a course in electronic detail, on the spot, validates a principle that would allow ‘objective’ security cameras on you anywhere outside your owned property.

      There’s a place for ‘full coverage’. When an event is expressly ‘public’ or ’emergent’, bring out all the media you can manage. If one has agreed to participate in a limited venue — a classroom being one — reasonable restrictions obtain.

      It’s false to think of electronic capabilities as being neutral. They’re fast, convenient, and entertaining, and they fashion our responses to be more impatient, if not narcissistic and shallow.

      For colleges, at least, reserve the electronics as tools to implement thought, not to text a peeve.

      As to what’s being taught in class, the kind of democratic equality that can be shown, quite different from authoritarian eras past, is the democracy of conversation amongst students and teacher. Blogging about what’s going on as it’s going on is only — at best — notetaking. At worst, it’s tattle.

      Talk as human equals. Be honest. Nothing is newer than that.

    42. What do you think about sites that ask elementary and middle school students to rate their teachers? The other day I was trying to find out who a teacher was that wrote to me so I googled his name. The first thing that I saw was a statement about him from a student, “I hate him.” This kind of a statement has to at least prejudice my view about the teacher, just a bit. I know nothing about the student other than he was a fourth grader. It’s quite possible that the next day this student decided he actually liked the teacher. But when you allow these kinds of postings they can be prejudicial.

    43. This incident raises a multitude of very interesting questions, and several of them extend outside the classroom.

      For example, a newspaper executive once stopped me in a hallway at a conference and said she was surprised at “how thorough” my blog post about a particular conference session was. There seemed to be some criticism in her remark — in the session, an editor at one of her company’s newspapers had explained in detail some inner workings of their newsroom. I reported all of these in my blog post.

      Was I supposed to consider that conference session off the record?

      Was I supposed to stand up — in a room full of journalists — and announce that I was taking notes for publication?

      I don’t know what the full legality of privacy is in a classroom. As a professor, I know that I am legally held to certain standards that protect the privacy of my students in various ways. But my students themselves are free to talk about our class meetings outside class.

      If free to speak, are they not also free to write, and to publish?

    44. Mike Snyder says:

      I’m a broadcast engineer who has spent most of my career working with news departments. I’m also working towards an MA in Communications. While many of Alana’s criticisms may have been valid, the methods and her attitude seem to be what most people have found offensive. Criticism can be constructive and helpful; it doesn’t always have to be scathing and demeaning. And that’s really the problem here.

      With regards to the request to bring in a newspaper article, if Alana had asked her professor, “How will this add to our perspective in a world dominated by digital media ?” she would have gotten a much better response from virtually everyone. That would have done more to resolve the issue of real-world learning than complaining online and in print that the department and the school were “…out of touch..”

      My own professor has encouraged us to build and maintain a dialog, as opposed to a diatribe, between younger and older members of the class to build understanding both new technology and the ways it impacts communications.

      Could the NYU professor have handled it better? Yes. But so could Alana and so could you. Nobody likes to read negative comments about their work or themselves, especially when the person complaining didn’t have the decency to talk about it in person before posting it. People generally don’t react well if they feel they’ve been attacked.

      Hopefully, there’s been some learning and more in the way of open discussion as a result of this. That would help get rid of the preconceived notions on both sides that result in hurt feelings, and not much else.

    45. Karl says:

      I think this is more evidence that many professors teaching Gen Y or even about Gen Y don’t get it. Maybe instead of banning new media from the classroom, the professor should encourage thoughtful use of twitter and other new media. I have been to presentations were the presenter actually posted the “back conversation” occuring in the class off the side and acknowledged that back discussion do occur and, interesting, many of the back discussion were on topic…imagine that. However, I think that perhaps the most adverse group to new media are the journalistic establishment…why…they are the most threatened.

    46. Lauren says:

      How disappointing to learn that NYC dampens its students’ journalistic initiative so heartily! A student at the Missouri School of Journalism, I’ve found the faculty and coursework supportive of the latest trends in social media. In fact, my professors have encouraged my involvement with a global news site called Newsy.com, which is rolling out in October. Last time I checked, hands-on experience is a good thing—unless you’re a student at NYC, that is.

    47. Inevitably due to the explosion of todays use of social media tools, we will not be able to stamp the net with “speech impediments.”

      It’s not reasonable to assume that we can slap the hand of everyone that wants to publicly display our experiences, now that we have the tools available to us.

      Potential to reaching an entire globe with a click of a button is quite an empowering experience. Our voices finally get heard. From housewife to President. Faceless until WE choose one.

      Permission? What about the trust of the public? Are we to trust in those that want to stifle? Suppress? Hinder?

      This generation is quickly becoming a generation that expects to be welcomed when they speak, not tagged as a trouble maker.

      Transparency, information, and choices.

      Educational institutions, especially this one, should be the last place to discourage the right to speech, whenever, however individually seen fit.

      As time goes on, the net will fill with Twitterers, Stumblers, Diggers, Mixxers, Propellers, and whateverelsers, that will discard anyone who attempts to keep them from doing their thing.

      Self expression is boundless, unfortunately, so is the cost of online reputation management. Therefore, we are bound to see much more of this along the great SM journey.

      Best bet as a professional? Institution? Person? If they do and say things that will bring favor upon them it’s free advertisement & they wont have to worry about it negative repercussions.

      The system was exposed as faulty and noone wants that on their resume. Outdated educational structure? Modernize it and move on. That seems to be what started this drama to begin with.

    48. New media needs to be embraced by schools on a national level. Not only does it properly educate students in regards to the world they actually live in, but it also helps to keep them interested since the knowledge & skills they are learning are directly applicable to their everyday lives.

    49. Zeev says:

      If you’re going to put a link to this article from the front page, at least have the decency to mention how the ombudsman took you to task for your actions about this article: Link.

    50. David says:

      What a great discussion. It is reactions such as this teacher’s that seem to cast colleges as irrelevant – not because they fail to devote the curriculum to every new, new thing, but because they demonstrate an illogical resistance to the classroom experience overlapping with the real world. Thank goodness NYU is not the only game in town.

    51. Charity says:

      @ Robert Taylor: “Definition of blog from dictionary.com: an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts.”

      You, and that definition, are out of date. Blogs haven’t been restricted to the personal for a long time. Many blogs these days include rigorous analysis and reporting, and are commonly accepted as journalism. It’s a reasonable expectation that a journalism student’s blog–on behalf of MediaShift, no less–should be journalistic, rather than a personal rant.

    52. stephanie says:

      I love what Jeff said! I totally agree. This is a typical reaction to a negative criticism. It’s sad that quigly has evidently never recieved negative criticism and does not enjoy the negative aspect of creative criticisms. Suffice to say, the student utilized her creative abilities and is now being shuned.

    53. Benjamin says:

      Many forums, academic or otherwise, operate under Chatham house rules. The fear of having what you say reported back could have an adverse affect on a classroom, leading to a lack of openness.

      This isn’t a matter of rights, its a matter of common sense.

    54. barbara hipsman says:

      I’ve taught for many years and reported for many years. Recently, I asked who twittered in the public affairs class – nada…but who text’d, all were in. Now they know how to twitter – and have tried it. Want to blog about my class? Have at it – but not during the class. If your fone rings, I answer it. It’s like the old passing of notes in the class – a matter of respect that goes both ways. And as for the paper form of NYT being required – if you can pass my simple current events quizzes from the online version – booya twice over.
      As for some of the above posts – hmmm. spellcheck before you blog on.

    55. Karen Slattery says:

      Fascinating topic.

      Next semester, I’m going to ask graduate students in my Ethics of Communication class at Marquette University to read about and tackle
      the issues raised in the original articles, subsequent posts and the ombud’s response. They will be asked to consider the issues in light of a range of moral theories, justice-based (rights and responsibilities) and care-based (concern for the other).

      Some of the students will already have had my multi-media reporting class so issues of faculty knowledge about new media will likely arise in the conversations.

      Should the students blog about the course? I don’t know what they will decide, but they can make the decision together.

      My own sense is that some people view life in the classroom as a personal investment of time and money and would prefer that the “drafts” of their thoughts and ideas, as they are worked out, not appear on the web for public consumption. Their view, I believe, should be honored.

      Thank you for the ideas you’ve all expressed.

      My contribution: Blogging and journalism are not the same things. Journalism has a history and tradition in this culture, some of it based on the idea that journalism is a public service. Blogging does not yet have its standards and practices worked out.

      So, is a journalist a blogger? Can be.

      Is a blogger a journalist? Not necessarily.

    56. Sandy Henry says:

      First, let me say that my comments pertain to blogging in general, not the specific blog that started this fascinating discussion. That said…

      Karen hits the nail on the head – bloggers are not necessarily journalists. Google ANY topic and you will find bloggers writing with inaccurate facts, uninformed opinions, and offering few solutions to the problems of which they speak. These are things that any Op-Ed piece is expected to do (and let’s face it, blogs are Op-Ed pieces). That’s not to say you won’t find plenty of informed writing. But, lots of people use blogs to vent and lots of uninformed people read these rants and take them to be truth. This is where journalistic practices and ethics are important. Free speech is one thing. Informed speech is another and it is the very thing that true journalists and journalism educators strive to achieve and impart on a daily basis. If we don’t, ESPECIALLY in this age of instant information, we run the risk of becoming a society based on half-truths, susceptible to extraordinary propaganda.

      Beyond journalism, and whether right or wrong, it also behooves every blogger to realize that not only will their blog be available to the public, but the words they write could have a tremendous impact on their life – free speech or no free speech. Consider “at will employment” and the story of a young person whose name and employer shall remain protected. The young person maintained a blog with a fake username and chose to blog about the employer. As you might guess, the employer was cast in a negative light. The employer used computer addresses to track down the person and subsequently fired the person for cause. If educators don’t emphasize the potential ramifications of this kind of public writing, students are being poorly served.

    57. This could be an example of student citizen journalism, in which case, I don’t believe it should be censored in the same way a professional journalist might be. I mainly feel this way because the citizen (student) may not yet have been fully trained in the same manner as a more experienced professional journalist.

      I am also curious, from a psychological standpoint: Do you think this would have unfolded in the same manner had Alana written an adulating review of her professor? I think when it comes down to it, the content itself has created the tension point here. And where there’s tension, there is emotion, which can blind us from engaging in critical thinking about such matters.

      In my opionion, a better option would have been for Quigley to engage the students in a dialogic argumentation exercise aimed at improving upon the thier epistemological understanding about this controversial topic. An examination of the multiple perspectives present in this case could have proven to be a worthwhile exercise, one that could teach students how laws accompanying journalism are being made – at this very moment – very relevant for the Gen Y’r. I say, it’s still not too late to do it. Perhaps Alana could take the lead in the discussion, in class, and make amends with the professor while also helping your fellow students think critically about this exciting topic.

      Thanks for the excellent post!

    58. Cat Mikkelsen says:

      With regard to new social media: It’s far easier to knife someone in the back now than it used to be. You can do it anonymously, through Yelp, or you can blog your discontent. You can start “I hate X” groups on facebook. Social media has given us a whole new set of tools.

      It’s a fact of life that some student, somewhere, is going to think that you suck if you’re a teacher. What to do?

      I think that the new technology represents a sea change for teachers. No longer do young pups need to “earn” the ability to make comments or snipe. Some people say that this is breeding a generation of obnoxiously narcisstic young folks who feel a massive sense of entitlement with regard to getting attention, but hey. At least they’re not boomers :-)

      As someone who ostensibly teaches new technology, IMHO the teacher should create some type of sandbox in which her class members can exercise all of the activities that one can do – and watch what happens. The teacher should try to get in front of the media.

      Fallout from social media usage is a huge issue. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was taught in school?


    59. Ira Gardner says:

      I see both sides to this issue. I can understand where an instructor could feel undermined and how this activity could cause disruption. I can also see where this activity could create the opportunity for growth and improvement in the course as well.

      I completely support the student’s right to blog about her experience and opinions of the class but I think in the spirit of journalism she should have interviewed the instructor and asked her, for example, why she was requiring a print version of the NY Times in a class about Gen Y reporting? She could have used her criticisms of the instructor as the basis for questions she could ask in order to get the whole story and to potentially provided an impetus for change rather than an entrenchment. In fact, the potential for positive impact on the class existed in raising these issues in a fair and respectful manner. Whereas the nature of this blog entry was “undercover” with what seems on the surface to have the goal of soliciting controversy. I think journalism can be part of the solution as well.

      This seems to be the problem with blogging versus reporting. Asking people to blog about their experience seems to omit the potential for growth through investigation beyond ourselves.

      On the otherhand I think the professor needs to utilize the modern tools available to participate in a conversation. She could have responded in a more contemporary manner by posting a comment that identified her reasons for how she conducts class.

    60. Sophie says:

      Before social media became a “professional” tool, it was just a way to connect and share things online, literally ANYONE can twitter/blog/upload video, which is why I am so confused why anyone talks about it like a serious professional skill??! Now that everyone has moved from newspapers/TV to the internet because of convenience, it’s suddenly something that needs to be a major focus in a graduate level journalism class? KIDS use twitter, facebook, etc. EVERYONE uses twitter, facebook, etc. which makes it profitable, which makes it important. But it is NOT a skill that needs to be taught. The nature of blogs is that they allow people to rant, vent, and share opinions behind the privacy and safety of their screen, so yes it will probably be more fun to read and more engaging than traditional media sources. But if people really believe that solid journalism skills no longer have their place in such a world … then the world has dumbed down more than I thought. Alana appeals to the growing generation of “adult-children” who are more selfish and narcissist than ever (her post shows a serious lack of respect for her teacher and her institution, and many respectable journalists who made significant contributions without a twitter account or BLOG – all while inflating her own ego). Also, ever since journalism got into bed with big business and decided to put profit ahead of everything else, they set themselves up to have to deal with this kinda bullshit and compete with fake journalists who are just good at garnering comments and making shit go viral. We might as well all walk around with “instagram/youtube this” or “facebook/tweet me” on our foreheads, this girl is seriously ridiculous and needs to experience real life outside her virtual one. I am shocked people like her get into grad school, what’s happening to higher learning institutes?? Profit can’t always be EVERYTHING, this is what you get.

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