The Chronicle of Higher Education Editor Liz McMillen, who fired blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley this week for a post concerning Black Studies, has responded to our questions. It would be easy to provide snappy reactions to some of her responses — and believe me, I’m tempted — but to be fair, we’ll let her words speak for themselves. If you have reactions you’d like us to consider publishing, send them to me at Betsy@mediabistro.com or to FishbowlDC@mediabistro.com. If you are late to this story and want a refresher on what happened, read here. You may also want to read Brad Phillips’ take on how McMillen handled the controversy on his Mr. Media Training Blog here.
1. Why were there no proper standards in place to guide Naomi in what was acceptable and what was not? We do have guidelines in place for all of our bloggers. But this is the first time that any of our bloggers has written a post dismissing an entire discipline based on the titles of three in-progress dissertations and quick summaries. For any kind of opinion piece, that is intellectually sloppy and poorly argued.
2. Naomi took the steps you asked of her. She wrote the response to critics. Why then did you fire her? We asked Naomi to write a response to the criticisms. She again insisted that she did not have to read the dissertations to make a judgment of the field. In fact, she couldn’t have read the dissertations because they are not finished, but she could have offered something else, something stronger, to support her opinion.
3. Why did you cave to a group of strangers who are calling Naomi every disgusting name out there? We made our own judgment about Naomi’s post and determined that it and her response did not meet our editorial standards for opinion writing. The length and format of a piece do not negate the responsibility of the writer to offer informed opinion. Criticism of any discipline, including black studies, is legitimate as long as it’s not sloppy, overgeneralized, and badly argued.
4. Do you see your action at all being a disservice to all bloggers out there who are also not edited before they publish? Or perhaps do you see it as a teachable moment? Like many publications, we have added new blogs, some by our own reporters and some by outside contributors. It continues to be a learning experience.