Live Blog of “Journalism, Ethics, and Sensitivity” forum



Berquam is wrapping it up. Smathers tells the Hillel director the Herald will begin reviewing their ad policies tonight. Smathers then says any changes will be deliberate and not imminent. Berquam responds that she wants transparency from the Herald with any changes that occur.

At times, this looked like the lynch mob the forum appeared to be a set up for, but it could have been much worse. I don’t think much was accomplished overall, and if I was to guess I would say that all the attacks may harden the Herald’s position. We will see.

This did convince me that the Herald did this in no way as an attention-grab though.


Another student yelling at Smathers, not asking a question, followed by cheering. And I thought the Millenials wouldn’t be the next wave of town hall lunatics.


This is honestly embarrassing. The most vitriolic and personal questions and statements have all come from students. The students here are the loud ones, yelling people down and trying to tip the conversation away from a civil one.


Its a DC and BH throwdown. First, Brace continues with this theme about making sure the people he works with feel safe based on his decisions.

Then the DC advertising director asks from the audience why the ad wasn’t originally caught. BH advertising director stands up and says, we run a lot, a lot, of ads. We missed this one.


Now Journalism professor Shwack (?) has the mic. I believe he is the only J-school faculty member supporting the Herald. He asks, where is the harm, and the people being recruited from this ad?

Schweber answers: This has strengthened Smith, and I have no doubt has helped his recruiting. (applause from the 50-60 students here)

Another J-school prof answers: This has given Smith’s ads legitimacy. This makes it harder for the MN Daily or other student newspapers to turn him down.


Downs gets the mic…man is a genius:

Smith has crossed a line from free speech to harassment with his recent spamming and emailing campaigns.

Downs then brings perspective to the importance of bringing unpopular and disgusting views to the light of day (there is the justification for running the ad the Heralders should have cited all along). This should not be underestimated.

He then asks Brace to say what ad they denied last night. Brace won’t say other than it was run by a local business who advocated underage drinking.


Q to Berquam: What do you and the administration want to see in the future?

A: Create a more thoughtful process in the future for determining what ads will run.


Penzenstadler said Smith’s message doesn’t rise to the level of the KKK placing an ad. A group of students went nuts. They missed the point, but most people yelling at a forum do.


Q: Why run the ad in the first place? What is the justification?

Penzenstadler: Puts him out there to be shouted down. That is better than ignoring him, allowing him to continue.


Nick Penzenstadler (runs advertising) and Kevin Bargnes, both of the Herald, were just called to the stage to answer questions about the process of vetting the ad originally. This spontaneous addition of new panel members was definitely the most exciting event so far. Penzenstadler is doing the talking.


Question from panel member: Did you amplify Smith’s views by running the ad?

Smathers: Not anymore so than denying him would have. If we would have denied him, he would just argue this is an example of the suppression of free speech and ideas.


First Question: I think this is a threat. I, and my friends feel threatened. How much threat needs to be enough? If the Herald was run by a Jewish person, would this ad have been run?

Smathers: The obvious and necessary response: there is a difference between subjective feelings of risk and actual risk. This does not rise to the latter. Smathers continues…I realize this causes emotional pain, but, basically, any hate speech does. Just because someone offended by certain speech doesn’t mean it should be censored.


-Schweber says that anyone outside the campus community has no right to comment or partake in the Herald. That was just he beginning of a line of terrible responses from him.

-One more question then audience questions. Looking forward to that.


-Schweber talks just as fast as he does in lecture, and in just about as condescending a way. I think he just tried to say recruiting for criminal activity is on par with recruiting for an ideological organization in an attempt to argue against the Herald running the ad.

-Steven, a J-school prof, just tried to disprove the importance of an unfettered marketplace of ideas. Wow, didn’t think anyone would go there. Civil rights movement much, sir?


-Brace just plugged the DC for the first time. Said they had an ad they decided not to run last night because it, ‘was not responsible.’ Says they didn’t want to associate with it (weak standard for a newspaper and free speech).

-Smathers says he had a relevant principle in mind to be applied before the controversy, even though it was applied “post-hoc.” He was being pushed on whether there was serious deliberation undertaken before running the ad.

-There is some debate going on about anonymous comments, one of the elderly guys say there shouldn’t be any. Seems insane, J-school prof, Junger, and Smathers point out importance of anonymous comments.


Smathers:Reiterates the points made in his column. He thinks we are rational enough to reject and thinks no one has become holocaust deniers from the ad.

Some other quotes:

‘This is an ethical issue not a first amendment issue.’

‘To pull the ad down and think that this and Smith will go away is naive.’

‘We should have had a policy on advertising and comments’

Schweber: The debate and discussion has been simplistic.


Just arrived, a few changes to the lineup.

Poli Sci Professor and First Amendment scholar (?) Howard Schweber is on the panel (he thinks the Herald’s decision was a “poor one”), as well as two other additions, one I think I heard was a prof from the J-school, the other I’m not sure, I missed the intros. 7 panelists in all.

DC Editor Charles Brace isn’t here. Not sure why.

Any insights are more than welcome as comments.


14 Responses to “Live Blog of “Journalism, Ethics, and Sensitivity” forum”

  1. Jack Says:

    Keep going Alec! Where is Donald Downs?

  2. Bobby Says:

    Brace is up there. Second from the right

  3. Alec S Says:

    Who is the guy talking right now for anyone that is here?

  4. Emily Says:

    First of all, I’m honestly kind of on the fence with this issue, but I lean toward the decision to run the ad being a bad one.

    Smathers talks about hate speech and how just ignoring this guy wouldn’t do any good. Two things, though.

    First, isn’t it generally good policy to ignore trolls? A Holocaust denier may be a particularly despicable breed of troll, but they’re a troll nonetheless. Feeding them, even by making reasoned, informed arguments against their position, just makes them feel like they’re being paid attention to and, therefor, encourages them.

    Second, if this ad is a kind of hate speech, where does Smathers and the BH draw the line? Would they run an ad for a person or group that denounces and demonizes any other group of people? Like gays, or African Americans, etc?

    I used to edit a college newspaper and we had fights over appropriate content with the student council and faculty all the time. Normally I’m prone to siding with the editor’s decision, especially where issues of censorship (and not bowing to it) are concerned. But this wasn’t news or editorial content. It was a paid ad. There’s no journalistic code that says you have to take all comers for advertisements, especially if, as a journalist, you believe the ad represents an outright fallacious and potentially dangerous point of view.

    This isn’t a “two sides to every story” issue. The Holocaust happened and it was beyond awful. It’s not really up for debate.

  5. Paul A. Says:

    “BH advertising director stands up and says, we run a lot, a lot of ads, we missed this one.”

    First, let’s ignore the fact that they chose to run the ad, so “missing” it is probably a weak excuse or a flat out lie.

    Second, your job as advertising director is to oversee the ads. If you “miss” the ad, you’re not doing your job.

  6. Paul A. Says:

    “The most vitriolic and personal questions and statements have come from all students.”

    It’s sort of not surpising. Not many students have been in this sort of setting before, and probably don’t know how to behave. They saw the town halls on TV from the summer, and probably thought that such behavior was the norm. Does someone need to remind the audience that this is not a Tea-Bagger meeting?

    • Todd Stevens Says:

      I have to disagree, of course they know how to behave. These are basic tenants of human decency we learned in elementary school. I’m honestly glad I had to leave the forum early before it degraded into this kind of behavior.

  7. Bobby Says:

    There can’t be a “lynch mob” when 1/4th of the people there work for the Herald

  8. Steve Horn Says:

    I would disagree. It was definitely a lynch mob and it was a very, very strong feeling of unshakeable groupthink on the part of the Jewish community. I posed a question about an ad run by FLAME right at the end ( and wanted to know how the Jewish community felt about hateful, patently false ads being run on “their” behalf (I am Jewish, but I don’t stand for racist articles toward Arabs and Palestinians) and got no response from the panel, other than Katy Culver saying “that’s different and it’s okay.” The two-faced, hypocrisy of all of it was overwhelming. I wasn’t trying to say the two are equal, perse (Holocaust Ad vs. FLAME), BUT, without doubt, people are more prone to the stuff that FLAME puts out there (and the multiplicity of groups like that) because the Jewish crowd perceives it as legitimate and not extreme, even though a close look at what they say and an understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict shows that what they do (monitor all campus newspapers, then respond by advertising to campus newspapers—just like Smith does, but they do it way more, as they have more resources and money than that clown) is hateful and wrong, too. So, either you dont’ let any of those ads in and start to develop a paternalistic view of what ads will offend people and which won’t, or you just run all ads. I’m in favor of the latter. This whole thing was and continues to be a zoo and I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    The fact that Howard Schweber can argue anyone into a corner at lightning speed does not mean this isn’t an absolutely elementary free speech issue with a clear position.

    • Jack Says:

      No, this is not an issue of free speech. It would be an issue of free speech if there was some proposal to legally restrict the Herald’s right to publish the ad. Nobody has suggested such a thing.

      This is an issue of journalistic standards and ethics.

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