The Wake Forest Review Practices Poor Journalism


Kory Riemensperger

I’m in favor of an honest conservative voice on campus.

My father and both grandparents are veterans; a 2009 Gallup poll found this demographic skews conservative at all age levels. I grew up with Bill O’Reilly on the television and a Huckabee ‘08 bumper sticker. As a result of this exposure, I appreciate the dialectic of political ideologies as a way of arriving at an accepted truth. Put another way, when we honestly navigate our differences — when you propose something and then I respond with an opposing view — we reconcile our way to understanding.

The non-profit Wake Forest Review makes both implicit and explicit claims to be a journalistic enterprise. Though they publish no print copy, their website is structured to resemble those of popular news organizations. Their tagline is “The Independent Newspaper at Wake Forest University,” while the “About Us” section reads: “…the Review aims to educate Wake Forest students and younger generations with balanced journalism from an unintimidated, conservative and libertarian position.” Their team is made up of Managing Editors, Associates Editors and Vice Presidents. It all looks very much like you would expect an official news publication to.

However, a recent article violates basic journalistic principles that one would expect from an honest news organization.

On Feb. 26, the Review published  an article titled “Wake Forest Declines to Enforce Harassment Policies for Conservative Student.” It details Digital Director Ryan Wolfe’s process with university administrators following his submission to the Bias Report System.

First, the article does not address any reason for its publication 16 months after the incident that encouraged it. There is no note from the author, no editor’s note, no hint of clarification to answer the simple question: “Why now?” Though there is obviously some leeway for a reporter to file a story, waiting more than a year seems to warrant some explanation.

When I commented on the Review’s Facebook page with this very question, my neutral question was not deleted, but slyly hidden from view. I could see it, but my friends could not. A follow-up question was also hidden. These are not the actions of an organization interested in facts.

In a personal Facebook post, one of the students who Wolfe filed against actually points out that the author of the Feb. 26 article misreported their class year— calling them juniors though they were sophomores at the time— the insinuation being that the story was held for so long the writer wrote about their present status instead of their past.

Wolfe’s interview on Tucker Carlson a mere two days after the article went live does the Review no favors in attempting to appear as a legitimate news publication. After 16 months, Wolfe gets his story told and appears on national television in the span of 48 hours? Is this supposed to be news or entertainment?

In addition, though the article reports the incident’s date, it does so in the ninth paragraph. Any reputable editor would insist such newsworthy information (remember the five Ws?) is covered immediately, then described in a comprehensive and proportional manner.

Second, this article is woefully one-sided. Journalists and the news organizations they work for must always support a public discussion and represent the multitude of viewpoints that frame these dialogues. Anything other than this is a dressed up blog post. Excluding the primary material that Wolfe found offensive, this article only ever cites a single person: Wolfe himself. The story’s perspective of this incident is seen only through his eyes. This works on a personal blog, but a news story must strive for more.

Third, this article is not comprehensive. When Wolfe appeared on Fox News, he revealed information not mentioned in the Feb. 26 article, claiming that “in so many words” the Dean of Students used the 2016 election to justify deescalating the process from a judicial hearing to mediation. Where was this in the original article? That’s a huge claim to withhold in print but make on national television.

As a result of these violations, the Review should immediately cease all claims to their status as a journalistic enterprise until such time that a member with extensive journalism experience holds a position on their board or is able to reasonably contribute to their editing process. As illustrated, there is a dire need for such reform.

I’m in favor of an honest conservative voice at Wake Forest, but not one that confuses entertainment for journalism.