Fact-checking Ezra Levant

Last Friday, Ezra Levant had two former Ryerson Journalism students on his show to talk about the school's alleged liberal bias. Scaachi Koul responded with this editorial for the Ryerson Review of Journalism that shows that Levant might have got a few facts wrong. 

Last Friday, Ezra Levant had two former Ryerson Journalism students on his show to talk about the school's alleged liberal bias. Scaachi Koul responded with this editorial for the Ryerson Review of Journalism that shows that Levant might have got a few facts wrong. 

What's it like to feel the wrath of Sun News and Ezra Levant? Ryerson University's journalism program is finding out.

Levant interviewed former Ryerson journalism students Derek Kreindler and Adam Culligan to discuss the School of Journalism’s alleged liberal bias—including professor emeritus John Miller's "Marxist" influence on the program, and the anti-Israel stance of student-run publication the Ryerson Free Press.


The segment went online on Friday, but we at the RRJ have been busy trying to destroy Israel WITH OUR BARE HANDS, so we’re a little late on this one. Since we’re all journalists, I’d like to offer Ezra and his guests a quick fact-checking lesson:

1. John Miller's title
John Miller is not a “journalism professor,” but rather, a retired journalism professor. Not only does he not merit air quotes, but he also doesn’t work here anymore. 

2. J-school's elective requirements
Kreindler said that while he did learn basic reporting skills, the program required students to take electives that were heavy on sociology and history “where Marxist views were pushed on [the students],” with slim pickings for economics and the sciences. Fair enough—the program does require you to take upper level and lower liberal electives, which are largely English, psychology, language, history, and sociology courses. 

The program does this because these courses are slanted toward journalism as both a trade and a subject of interest. Additionally, the electives offered to undergraduate students in journalism are geared toward their prospective master's degrees. Many, if not most, who are interested in getting their master's would be interested in continuing their education in communications or the arts; therefore, the electives offered are ones related to those subjects. But that doesn't mean they're the only option.

While journalism undergrads are required to pick journalism electives from a pool that includes such subjects as copy editing and online journalism (tools of persuasion for the liberal left), there are no fewer than 22 geography electives available to journalism undergrads, including one that’s just about Las Vegas. There are 17 economics courses available. You can take four on the topic of Caribbean studies. 

If a journalism student opts for a math or science course that isn’t directly available to them, they can write to undergraduate admissions and make a plea for enrollment. Getting into a math or science course isn’t based on the school's alleged bias—it’s based on whether Calculus 400 has enough room to accommodate students other than math majors.

3. The Ryerson Free Press's link to j-school
The Ryerson Free Press is not the place where students “practice being journalists.” In fact, many of the paper's writers are from outside the journalism program; editor-in-chief Nora Loreto is a j-school dropout, and news editor James Burrows went to York University.

4. The RSU's involvement
The Ryerson Free Press is not run by the school's student union (the RSU) but by CESAR, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson. The paper has full editorial autonomy from its publisher—whose extremely Marxist views include workshops on "Healthy Cooking on a Student Budget."  

5. Full disclosure
I have been the features and opinions editor at the Free Press since January. I do indeed get a lot of pro-Palestine articles in my inbox every month, but that’s not a charge that the newspaper has ever denied. Yes, we have pro-Palestinian writers, but have also written about Holocaust memorials and about fighting against oppression, whatever kind of oppression that may be. We accept any and all content based on quality, not on stance. (Consider this your open call, Mr. Levant. Send us a story. We’ll run it. I’ll hand-deliver a copy to you myself.)

6. What?    
My brain is not in chains, whatever that means. 

7. Yes, Critical Issues was awful
Critical Issues in Journalism was a terrible, terrible class. It was terrible for so many reasons. It was terrible because it was sometimes held for three hours in a basement classroom at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. It was terrible because it was boring, and it was terrible because it was required. It was so terrible that it forced you to make friends with people you hated because you were stuck in a class that made you talk about your feelings. It was like one of those classes you had to take in high school that sucked, like algebra or sex ed. It was not terrible because it involved a book by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In the past three years, that book has not been part of that course.

8. Oil sands
Levant said in the segment that the journalism industry “is biased against the oil sands,” and then asked if the issue of the oil sands came up in the program. Kreindler said it was rarely mentioned. The back ad for theRyerson Review of Journalism’s winter 2012 issue is an ad for the oil sands. Here’s a 2010 Free Press story story about oil sands. Here's another from 2011.

9. A part of the machine!
We talked about Levant a lot in our last issue of the Review. Is he a part of our liberal machine? Here's hoping!

I personally have deep roots in Marxist ideology, as I was born and raised in the left-wing utopia that is Stephen Harper’s riding in suburban Calgary. It’s exciting to be a part of a school so deeply entrenched in Marxism that it's in a corporate partnership with Loblaw. But most important, beyond facts on how theRyerson Free Press operates or the perceived biases in the School of Journalism, Open File’s John Michael McGrath wraps it up best: “Anecdotes aren’t data.”

Find me one school or one program that doesn’t have a pocket of disgruntled 20-year-olds who think their degree was a waste or that their teachers were unqualified oafs, and I’ll find you a student who didn’t pay $20,000 to be professionally unemployed.

In somewhat related news, Monday is a really hard word.

This post was originally published by the Ryerson Review of Journalism. The original can be found here