Student journalist covering protests: ‘We have to do it’

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Student journalist covering protests: ‘We have to do it’
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Student journalist covering protests: ‘We have to do it’

We have to do it.

“We’re all pretty tired,” Cloteaux said, remarking on the work of reporters at IDS who are covering the protests day and night even amid finals. “It’s tough, but I can’t think of anyone better than the [IDS] reporters,” she added. “We have to do it.”

Cloteaux said that the IDS staff has faced harsh criticism and worse since the beginning of its coverage of the war and protests in October. Staff members have been physically threatened, stalked, and subjected to harsh commentary on social media, she said.

By November, the backlash had taken such a toll on the IDS’s morale that Cloteaux felt she had to respond. She published a letter to readers explaining how the outlet covers the war and addressing the criticism it received. “We are acutely aware that reporting on the Israel-Hamas war is inherently polarizing, and the IDS has received criticism from each side,” Cloteaux wrote. But she laid out in detail the steps the IDS takes to ensure accurate reporting and provide a multitude of perspectives from community members.

The transparency worked. Cloteaux told FPF that the letter to readers inspired an outpouring of support for the IDS. Cloteaux said the response showed that the staff needed “to keep going, keep doing our work, because the community needs to be informed and we won't be deterred.”

Unlike student journalists at Columbia, Dartmouth, and elsewhere, IDS reporters haven’t faced arrests or violence against student reporters by police. But reporters still worry it could happen. “We've seen a lot of protesters being violently shoved to the ground and arrested, and it's definitely a possibility for us as journalists as well,” Cloteaux said.

The IDS has also encountered a recalcitrant university administration. “It’s hard to get a hold of them now,” Cloteaux said. Even as protesters are calling on IU president Pamela Whitten to resign and the faculty voted no-confidence, the administration is not responding to IDS questions or public records requests.

The IDS — which is owned by IU though editorially independent from the university — is also under severe financial pressure. Losses in funding mean that it’s had to let some professional staff go and publish a print paper just once a week. “These cuts really affect our ability to inform the public and to serve our community,” Cloteaux said.

A university committee formed to find solutions to funding issues for student media on campus initially gave the IDS hope. Unfortunately, Cloteaux said that the results have been disappointing, and the IDS learned it was likely to face additional, crippling budget cuts.

In response, the staff staged a walkout, declining to publish any news on its website for 24 hours to bring attention to what the community would lose if the IDS went dark. That day, students erected the campus encampment, and police arrested dozens of protesters.