Last Friday, I had plans to attend a dinner put on by the curious World Journalism Institute, a small college in midtown where journalism students bring their Bibles to class. The keynote speaker was Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter and policy advisor who was once named the ninth most influential Evangelical in the nation. This was a man who crafted some of the most important messages about the Iraq War, and now he was coming to wax poetic for a school that aspires to “recruit, equip, place and encourage journalists who are Christians in the mainstream newsrooms of America.” (The Voice profiled the school in 2006.)
Curious about what Gerson would say to the specially selected 19 students in attendance, I got all gussied up (this was taking place at Harvard Club, after all) only to have the welcome mat snatched away. This was in my inbox just hours before the big event, from WJI Director Robert Case:
“I have talked with Michael Gerson about the guest list for tonight’s WJI dinner and while he does not object to non-institute students and teachers attending he would change his comments to be less focused on the institute program and be more general. This changes things for us because we want him to address our students and their concerns. Thus, we are, with egg on our face, asking that you not attend the dinner so that Michael can feel free to talk to the students and teachers.”
Huh? No actual journalists were allowed to cover a journalism school’s event? Kim Collins, the deputy director of the college, later attempted to explain how Christian journalism students’ concerns are different than any other reporter: “That probably depends on the individual,” she said, but, “the principles of journalism are the same no matter what your faith.”
Here’s what I was taught in Journalism 101– always be skeptical. So this reporter is still trying to get the text of Gerson’s Friday night speech.