The Intercept ran a fake story about the censorship that wasn't. Nathan Bernard reported that Maine's liberal arts Bates College censored students in the student newspaper, but it turns out that never happened.
The claim was that "Bates College administration censored the campus newspaper, deleting an article on staff unionizing then republishing it with over 1,000 new words of anti-union jargon, patriotic quotes, and pro-management talking points."
The only problem, as Michael Tracey reported, is that Bernard didn't actually reach out to those who he claimed had been censored. Tracey did that. He reached out to the "student reporter" whom Bernard wrote about.
Tracey dug into it because after Bernard wrote the story and posted it to Twitter, he taunted Tracey, and others who report on culture wars, demanding that they cover the story themselves. That's exactly what Tracey did, but it didn't go as Bernard hoped.
Tracey said that perhaps Bernard didn't do his journalistic diligence, saying it may have something to do with Bernard, "the snarkily self-described 'free speech warrior,'" having gone "on a Twitter tirade demanding that online media personalities such as Bari Weiss, Glenn Greenwald" and Tracey to "denounce the 'censorship' alleged in his article."
Bernard posited that Bates College administrators pressured the student newspaper to pull and redraft an article that reported on employees of that college attempting to unionize both adjunct faculty and staff.
He wrote that the "original October 13 article detailed dire working conditions" and other issues, but that "According to staff members at The Bates Student, the paper's managing editor, who wrote the story, took her article down at the behest of Bates’s media relations specialist Mary Pols and the administration the same day it was posted."
Tracey wrote that student journalist, managing editor Elizabeth LaCroix, who told him "in plain English: 'I do not believe I was censored.'" She told Tracey that Bernard hadn't reached out, and that if he had, his article "would've been completely different."
Bernard wrote that "The following day, an edited version of the story was published to The Bates Student’s website," and that it was substantially more "anti-union" than the original, and had new quotes and information, complete with a new pull quote.
Bernard interviewed the former managing editor, but not LaCroix. "I was surprised that I was not interviewed by The Intercept mostly because their article was centered around an article that I wrote," LaCroix told Tracey.
Bernard apparently also talked to Pols, whose statements back-up LaCroix. Pols said "Like responsible journalists everywhere, the editor and reporter at The Bates Student corrected the record and issued a thorough explanation for the changes."
The Intercept writer then detailed the edits that were made. The editor of Bates' student newspaper also wasn't contacted. Jackson Elkins told Tracey: "We were never censored or coerced."
LaCroix and Elkins released a joint statement saying that the student newspaper staff "made the decision on its own accord" to take the article down and make changes before republishing it.
The students wrote that after their story was published, they were contacted by Bates' media relation specialist Mary Pols, who said that there were "misleading statements and reporting inaccuracies." The students noted that Pols "has no authority to require changes or read articles before publishing and did not attempt to exercise such authority."
LaCroix and Elkins said unequivocally that "Nearly all edits made to the originally published article were additions. Information regarding neutrality statements was reworded for clarity." They wrote that they "corrected inaccuracies that were misleading or confusing," and "allowed additions to both the union and administration side of the story..."
The two seemed a bit insulted to be accused of having allowed themselves to be censored. They wrote: "The staff of The Bates Student takes immense pride in our editorial independence. We are given full autonomy on what is and is not published. In the interests of informing the Bates community, we stand by the edits we made."