The Deafening Silence of Columbia Journalism School


Maybe I missed the memo. I sure hope I did. Maybe there are groups of journalists trained by my alma mater, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, who are taking a stance against censorship and propaganda. In any case, the vast majority in my alumni network either promote it, are on board with it or keep silent on the matter. I’ve spoken out about this before, but the more time passes the more awkward and deafening the silence becomes.

Some things in the world are inherently wrong. Censorship and propaganda are two examples. These phenomena occur continuously in different forms throughout history, however, my generation has been able to witness from up close a steady and alarming increase since we graduated a little more than a decade ago.

I went into journalism because I love making information available to people. I left journalism shortly after graduation to work in the translation industry and today I’m devoting most of my time to motherhood. Last year, however, I could not contain myself any longer. Almost NOBODY in The Netherlands was bringing news. Facts. Stories on what’s going on in the world. Empirical notes from reporters who respect epistemology. Pieces that inform instead of telling you what to think. For this reason I started supporting new, independent journalism.

Meanwhile, I saw my old Ivy League colleagues, who often have tens of thousands of followers and work for the world’s biggest media brands, ridiculing Trump voters, publishing suggestive, colored articles based upon unproven axioma’s, I saw them openly expressing their own personal fear and promoting new medications — actions which are all inherently unethical in the reporting profession.

I contacted each of the colleagues and professors above to share my concerns: Reporters should be humble and not take sides. As Ivy League graduates, they told us at graduation, we carry responsibility. They blocked me, unfriended me, insulted me or otherwise avoided any type of debate. Smart, highly accomplished professionals who are not only unwilling to exchange views with their peers, but who ridicule them. Things are simple though. We all learned this at Columbia: some things are inherently unethical. So-called ‘unprecedented events’ do not change that, on the contrary.

I am not a reporter. I don’t have a big audience, nor do I want that. I am just helping out here in my tiny country of The Netherlands, to build new media outlets. For the future of my kid and yours. Freedom of information has been my passion since childhood. Like Edward Snowden I was born in 1984, and I vividly remember the ascent of the internet the way he described it in his most recent book. Access to information is a universal human right.

Propaganda is being fueled by the media’s countless conflicts of interest. Censorship is being fueled by the delusional idea that any human or algorithm can possess superior fact-checking powers; that there is a patent on truth that must be defended.

Dear influential reporters in my network: please remember that you owe your job to the readers and the readers only. Hardworking readers from all walks of life who need an overview of the facts you’ve found so that they can think for themselves. That is the goal of journalism.