Open Letter to
Northeastern University School of Journalism
Northeastern University School of Journalism
Against the taboo, I dared question and challenge Dan Kennedy, Associate Journalism Professor at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism. Unlike most writers, I always seek to push the envelope. Truth, not career, is my modus operandi. I criticized Professor Kennedy’s praise of Boston Globe columnist Renée Loth as “…one of the city’s most accomplished journalists…” and directed the professor to my criticism of Loth, “What Is a Journalist?” “The fundamental flaw in journalist Renée Loth’s Boston Globe op-ed, “Julian Assange may be a hero to some, but he’s no journalist,” is its failure to define what precisely constitutes a journalist. Does egregious bias define journalist today?”
To my surprise, the professor actually responded, though quite briefly, and not at all regarding my criticism. The Boston Globe has yet to publish any of my critiques, regarding its editor, Renée Graham, Loth, Jeff Jacoby et al. If the Globe were indeed such “powerful journalism on tap,” why can it NOT bear to be questioned and challenged, as I have done periodically? In fact, the same applies to the School of Journalism and its professors!
Well, I praised Professor Kennedy for actually responding, which in itself was quite rare in the buffered world of academe. As a former professor, I am all too aware of that sad—very sad—world, where freedom of speech and real vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstones, are not at all cherished. Part of our very brief debate concerned the lack of contact information for Loth. The professor explained that absence, stipulating Loth to be a “freelancer.” Well, perhaps one day all the columnists would be “freelancers” and thus fully buffered from outside criticism. The professor also argued, interestingly, that op-eds like Loth’s were somehow independent of the editor:
Your comments about McGrory indicate that you have no idea how a large newspaper operates. The editor and the editorial-page editor (Shirley Leung, who's interim) both report directly to the publisher, John Henry. Good newspapers separate the news and opinion operations, which is why McGrory has nothing to do with what appears on the opinion pages.
But I challenged that statement: “However, does not the publisher have any say at all in the selection of the editor?” I wrote. “And if indeed he or she does, then how can ‘op-ed’ism’ be truly independent, as you seem to indicate it to be?” Clearly, for example, most of the op-eds appearing in the New York Times tend to be largely—very largely—in line with the editor’s points of view. But again, this is a deflection from my criticism. Why did Professor Kennedy choose to ignore the egregious faults I’d underscored in Loth’s op-ed (as well as in Graham’s racist op-eds)… and thus the conflict of his praise?
Sadly, journalism seems to have become a milieu of backslapping and self-congratulating. Does the School of Journalism even discuss that fundamental problem? Why will Professor Kennedy NOT, as I suggested, expose his students to the criticism I periodically lodge against journalists, often in The American Dissident, a journal of literature, democracy and dissidence? Silence was his response. Will silence also be the response of the purportedly independent Huntington News? [Indeed, that was the response!]
One major conflict of interest is rarely ever evoked, for evident reasons: CAREERISM vs. TRUTH. The two, far more often than not, simply do not mesh. Because I have always chosen TRUTH, my CAREER as a professor eventually terminated… and I’d have it no other way. Well, I put that quandary to Professor Kennedy: “And if you think they can [go together], then please, oh, please, tell me why you don’t seem to give a damn about NU’s horrendous speech-code rating, issued by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.” In effect, how can journalism thrive in such an ambiance? The professor did not respond. Does The Huntington News give a damn that NU was designated Speech Code of the Month in November? [Apparently, it doesn’t give a damn!] Did it even report on that?
Sadly, it seems that silence is indeed golden at NU. The old student newspaper did not respond to my 2005 email.
Dear Staff, The Northeastern University Voice:
Your student newspaper does not sound like a newspaper at all. It sounds like an organ of NU propaganda. Is that what they teach in your school of journalism? Why not publish the attached cartoon I did on your president with this email? Show some backbone! Show an openness to criticism, free speech, and vigorous debate, cornerstones of democracy. BTW, I am class of 1972. I expect not even a response from you. So, surprise me!
In 2012, I sent the following:
To First Amendment Center at Northeastern University, Journalism Professor Walter V. Robinson:
As an NU alumnus, class of 72, can you possibly help me? Might you know of a pro-bono lawyer? On June 19, 2012, I was permanently trespassed w/o warning or due process by Sturgis Library director, Lucy Loomis. The library is publicly funded. Loomis was apparently angered especially by two letters I’d sent to the directors in the library system the week before. The letters were partially critical of Loomis, but were written as a last ditch effort to get just one library in the system to subscribe to The American Dissident. Three police officers accompanied the director to escort me out of the building. One of the cops grabbed and twisted my arm then frisked me because I'd simply asked why three cops were necessary and stated I did not have a weapon. No written document for the order was issued. The police report fails to stipulate the duration of the order. It is ever astonishing to me that a library director could be so scornful of free speech. One of my subscribers set up the following page on his website regarding my case: http://sturgisbansdissident.blogspot.com/. Thank you for your attention.
Well, there was a response, though from Larry Laughlin. We corresponded a bit, then Laughlin simply and totally disappeared. Then in 2015, I wrote:
To Justin Silverman, Executive Director, New England First Amendment Center,
Is there a reason why my alma mater, Northeastern University, would house an organization with your name when said organization proves apathetic to the following?
Presumption of innocence, as you surely know, is supposed to be a fundament of justice. Yet I was NOT even charged with anything. Sturgis Library (Barnstable, MA) director Lucy Loomis simply sentenced me by permanent banning on June 19, 2012, one week after I’d disseminated a critical Open Letter to the directors of the Clams Library System of Cape Cod. When I asked Loomis for a written document stipulating my crime, the request was rejected. When I asked for due process, the request was also rejected. (When I’d offered a free subscription to The American Dissident, the offer was rejected.)
A FOIA demand made by a friend was approved nine months after the banning by the State Secretary of Records, who then mandated/forced Loomis to open her (i.e., Sturgis Library) records to the public. The only pertinent document in those records was an email Loomis had sent to trustee Ted Lowry, noting that her drastic action was “for the safety of staff and the public.” Yet I’d NEVER threatened anybody and have no police record! In fact, I’ve got a doctoral degree and have been a professor for much of my working life. Almost three years later, not one staff member has been threatened by me and I have not set foot on Loomis’ fiefdom. How easy it is for corrupt-minded people like Loomis to play the he’s- a-danger-to-society card—no proof needed!
Today, my civil rights are being denied in Barnstable, since I am not permitted to attend any cultural or political events held at my neighborhood library, the one my taxes help support. Not one person in Barnstable County has expressed an iota of concern. In vain, I contacted so many pathetic apathetic people from Town Manager Tom Lynch to County Human Rights Commissioner John Reed, state reps Cleon Turner and Brian Mannal, town councilor Ann Canedy, town attorney Ruth Weil, Susan Corcoran (ACLUM), and Karen Wulf (PEN New England). Editors Paul Pronovost (Cape Cod Times) and Noah Hoffenberg (Barnstable Patriot) both refuse to publish anything regarding any of this. Why? Recently, I requested Loomis and library trustees reconsider the permanent trespass penalty for exercise of freedom of expression. Not one of them deigned to respond.
Now, would you please reconsider your past pathetic apathy regarding the above facts and help me regain my civil rights and thus prove that freedom of speech when pertaining to institutions that serve a public function must not be punished, especially without due process?
Thank you for your hopeful attention.
Well, Silverman responded, but eventually also disappeared. In October of 2017, I sent the following:
To Exec. Dir. Jack McCorkie, Office of Alumni Relations, and Amy Lewontin, Collection Development, Northeastern University:
A couple of years ago, maybe three or four, The American Dissident was put on your short list for periodical acquisitions. Of course, I haven’t heard a word from you. In fact, as an NU alumnus (Class of '72), it has almost been two decades of my periodically trying in vain to interest you in subscribing.
How can NU expect me to donate money as an alumnus, when you will not even subscribe ($20/yr) to the unique 501c3 nonprofit literary journal I’ve been publishing since 1998? Please do give that a thought next time you call me on the telephone asking for a donation...
No response was ever received.