The Harvard Crimson responded on Tuesday to backlash the newspaper received after it contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for comment following a story about a protest against the agency.
Act on a Dream, a Harvard-based student immigration advocacy group, held a rally on Sept. 12 calling for ICE to be abolished. The Crimson, which covered the protest, later reached out to ICE for comment in its coverage of the protest.
However, Act on a Dream and several other student organizations at the school felt that the paper, the daily student newspaper of Harvard University, should not have contacted the government agency due to "a long history of surveilling and retaliating against those who speak out against them," the group wrote in a petition to get the paper to no longer contact ICE for comment.
"This was the wrong call. We are extremely disappointed in the cultural insensitivity displayed by The Crimson’s policy to reach out to ICE," the petition, which has more than 650 signatures, reads.
Act on a Dream and The Harvard Crimson did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by NBC News.
On Tuesday, in a note to readers by The Harvard Crimson President Kristine E. Guillaume and Managing Editor Angela N. Fu, the paper explained why it reached out to ICE for comment and defended the decision.
The editorial explained that the paper follows a "commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small."
"Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them," the editorial states.
The editorial explains that ICE was contacted for comment after the rally ended but before the article was published and that the Crimson did not give ICE advanced notice of the protest, nor did it provide the government agency with any names or immigration statuses of people at the protest, according to the note to readers.
The Crimson stated that it met with Act on a Dream to address concerns expressed on social media and to explain the common journalistic practice. A week later, the note to readers states, the petition calling for the Crimson to change its policies was published.
In the editorial, the Crimson stated that it conferred with experts at the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists, who confirmed the Crimson followed journalistic ethical standards by reaching out to ICE.
The Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics, which is widely followed in the journalism community, states that journalists should "diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing."
"We understand that some readers may disagree with The Crimson’s policies," the editorial states. "But our mission is facts, truth, narrative, and understanding. In our view, consistent application of a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards is the best way to fairly report on the campus in a sensitive and thorough manner."