“League of LOL”: a case that questions schools of journalism


Since the beginning of February, testimonials have been pouring in on the “LOL league” – a Facebook group of young media professionals accused of harassing people between 2009 and 2012 on social networks, particularly Twitter, other journalists and members of the blogosphere. These revelations question the responsibility of the editorial offices, but also that of the schools of journalism. They also show the difficult introspection of a profession that sees itself “naturally” educated and humanistic.

For the media that have used or employ the journalists involved are in the camp of so-called progressive media, rather leftist, and who have invested particularly in recent years on topics such as sexism, racism, homophobia or still anti-Semitism.

Many articles have pointed to a “boys club” phenomenon , which, under the cover of humor, by excluding certain minority or minority people, such as women, racialized people or men who do not correspond to a virilist schema. , allowed these members to secure a career and access to positions of responsibility.

In a second time, the question of the responsibility of the schools of journalism, where some of the incriminated persons met had met. Can we imagine that they fabricate, even unconsciously, violence, to the extent that they welcome future young journalists after a demanding career, to prepare them for a job whose access is restricted  ?

That would be tantamount to thinking that by internalizing what awaits them after graduation, students, consciously or unconsciously, set the stage for the greatest chances of success. What means do schools put in place to ensure equality and respect for people in their organization?

Ethics considered “natural”

Journalism schools, like journalists, are extremely vigilant about their independence and their educational freedom for the former, editorial for the latter. For good reasons: the independence of the press is the guarantee of democracy. In the current debate, schools were criticized for opposing the introduction in the 2014 Gender Equality Bill of 16 bis all higher education journalism institutions to modify their curricula to provide education on gender equality and the fight against sexist stereotypes.

Part of this was due to the fact that educational leaders in journalism schools are constantly being solicited by groups, associations and others asking to intervene in schools to make students aware of how to deal with such and such topic. We understand that they are extremely vigilant. Another argument has been put forward: why should this obligation be the only training in journalism, and not those of advertising, human resources or marketing?

However, schools of journalism should not refrain from questioning the issues of respect between people or the media treatment of certain categories of people. Academic literature abounds, moreover, with regard to biased and stereotyped media treatments, as shown by the work of Marlène Coulomb-Gully on the media treatment of women or Eric Macé , on diversity on television.

While it is so difficult for news organizations and journalism schools – where senior positions are often filled by former journalists – to question their practice, it is because they are often in a myth that of ethics and deontology that underlies journalism training as the practice of this profession. Ethics born from the founding principles of the 1918 SNJ (National Union of Journalists) Charter, revised in 1938 and updated in March 2011. But, as Eric Neveu notes in his book Sociologie des médias  :

“This sense of belonging to a shared deontology runs up against the limits of the absence of corporate sanction mechanisms when there is an attack on the principles of this deontology. “

Awareness in schools

If all journalism schools have become aware of these issues, we can consider that a real collective thinking has emerged from work and round tables of the CNMJ (National Conference of journalism) in January 2018. Called “Men and women how to use it in the media “, the eventlooked as much at the organization of the newsrooms as the media treatment of the subjects. A survey based on interviews was conducted among the 14 schools recognized by the profession (comprising the Conference of Schools of Journalism), as well as the ESJ Pro in Montpellier raised two points in particular:

  • First of all, the schools thought that “naturally” the students knew that they could solicit them in case of problems. Speech is not easy to release on these subjects, especially if a person from the school is concerned, as long as a referent person is not clearly designated and an alert procedure is communicated.
  • In addition, school officials also spoke of the futility of raising the awareness of their external speakers, often journalists, to the fact that they “shared the values ​​of the school”. This brings us back to the question mentioned above concerning ethics and deontology, experienced as obvious by the profession.

Following these results, the Conference of Schools of Journalism initiated a reflection on these topics. Sandy Montanola, Training Manager at IUT Lannion, and I have been assigned to assist schools in setting up referents, listening units and other actions to ensure equality for all. and all, and the fight against all forms of discrimination.

Towards a management of diversity

The approach proposed is that adopted at the Practical Institute of Journalism of Paris-Dauphine, namely that of a diversity management, leading to an audit of Afnor and a label “Equality and diversity “. An approach that, beyond equality and the fight against discrimination, aims to include everyone in an organization. Until now, research work on setting up and managing a diversity policy has most often been of interest to companies .

Few studies in management sciences have focused on the implementation of diversity management in a field as specific as that of higher education. This is why, as of 2010 , Sabrina Pérugien carried out, as part of her thesis, a research-action project at a management school, EM Strasbourg, which obtained the label “Diversity”.

This is the same approach that was adopted at IPJ Dauphine | PSL, in order to rethink the whole organization with regard to equality, both in the recruitment of teachers and in training. A steering committee “Diversity”, representative of the professional bodies of the school, was formed. The first step was to draw up an inventory of the risks of discrimination, based on a questionnaire sent to students, permanent employees and individual teachers.

Act on all the risks of discrimination

Under the auspices of the Diversity Steering Committee, an Equal Opportunities Officer and a Disability Task Manager, a two-year action plan was conducted. Here are the main axes:

  • As part of the entrance examination, and in particular for admission juries, competency-based evaluation grids were developed and juries were made aware of issues of equality and discrimination.
  • The curriculum integrates courses on stereotypes, their impact in the media and students are regularly put in situations of reporting on these issues. In addition, evaluation grids for teaching have been developed, in order to take into account only the skills (know-how and skills) of students without any discriminatory considerations that could interfere with the notation, as in any educational choice (internship, selection for prizes and scholarships …).
  • Discrimination awareness is provided at the beginning of the school year for students and teachers. It is presented orally and accompanied by a document that describes it precisely and recalls the existence of an independent listening unit that can be seized by anyone considering themselves discriminated against.

Building a culture of equality is an ongoing commitment. Every year, students are asked to anonymously answer a questionnaire on the risks of discrimination within the school and have the opportunity to describe the situations experienced or observed. The pedagogical team can thus identify particular problems and act knowingly. These procedures do not guarantee to avoid all inappropriate behavior and words, but they set a clear framework and send a strong signal.

Author Bio: Pascale Colisson is completing a Master’s degree at the Practical Institute of Journalism (IPJ) at the University Paris Dauphine – PSL