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The Distortion of Safe Space Using Journalism

by on December 1, 2015

Lately, the term ‘safe space’ is being tossed around in the media like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode with nit-picky demands for political correctness. With the racially-charged protests at Mizzou and Smith protesters’ banning of media during events, the definition of safe space is being stretched thin. To me, the meaning of a safe space, is not synonymous with the way these campuses are infringing upon a journalists’ first amendment rights. It is not synonymous with the way the media is being asked to be compliant and non objective in the way they portray these events. A safe space is a place (such as a club room) that has been established by minority groups as a place to be conscientious about language usage, an acknowledgment that in that area, they do have a voice that is not overruled by while males, for whom this country’s system works. For example, I work at a co-op on campus and we have designated our cafe as a ‘safe space’. This DOES NOT mean that we silence the media or deny them entry or whatever. This just means we are letting it be known that in that space, the workers/owners of that business are not pro-racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist.

Anyways, in recent media, the misrepresentation of a ‘safe space’ is detrimental to minority groups AND to journalists. As a journalist who believes in safe spaces, I feel extremely torn on this matter because of the way this issue is being presented. Do I think that college is a “safe space” (in the sense that it’s being portrayed int he media right now) ? No. Can there be safe spaces on a college campus? absolutely. Does that mean that the media are not allowed into safe spaces? Absolutely not. That’s not what it means at all.

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2 Comments
  1. mollygates permalink

    I really like your distinction. I think it is very important to draw lines and to be very specific when it comes to what a “safe space” is. I think a lot of people have different ideas about what it entails. I think your example of your co op is a good one.

    Your post reminds me a lot of what happened at Smith College. Protestors there refused to allow journalists to cover the event, unless they agreed that they would support what the protestors position and write there stories in a positive way. That is where I believe a line needs to be drawn. It is a reporters job to report facts, not to distort their writing to support a cause. Any reporter who agreed to the Smith College protestor’s demands, turned themselves from a journalist into a PR agent for the protestors.

    While safe spaces were not the specific focus of that event, it does highlight the tension between the media and students seeking to control their environment.

  2. I agree with your wholly that somewhere being a safe space does not mean the exclusion of media. I think that journalists being told, or feeling as if, they cannot enter a groups safe space is detrimental to the communication of varying minorities experiences in our country. There is also the issue of how hard it is to create and uphold a truly safe space – I work at a student run business on campus too and even though we work daily to uphold our safe space it requires constant work. I think that that dedication to the safe space, and the energy put in to creating it, could be one of the reasons why people are so defense of others entering that space.

    This issue can be applied to sexual violence survivors in a different way. Since sexual violence is such a taboo subject, many feel as if they can’t even touch the topic. Taking the idea of a “safe space” into a more ideological perspective, there are many journalists that look at sexual violence and have no idea how to communicate what is occurring without being triggering, insensitive and therefore breaking the feeling of someones safe space without even stepping foot near them. A huge issue with this, is that is isn’t talked about because of the fear of mistake (especially after the UVM rape story.)

    So to a certain degree I absolutely believe that journalists should be hyper-aware of safe spaces – physical safe spaces should always be respected, and if they are being respectful than the journalists should be allowed to enter them. However, sometimes when we become so concerned with tip-toeing around trigger words the discussion is stopped (which is detrimental to the solution of the treatment of all minority groups.)

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