The Intercept Validates Our Prediction about the Battle over the First Amendment on College Campuses


Each year, we issue a set of predictions for the following year, and at the end of that year, we evaluate the accuracy of our predictions. Our perspective is a very media-centric; since our goal is to advise our clients on how the media will be covering various topics, we judge how successful we’ve been by looking at the amount of media coverage on each topic.

For 2018, we had predicted that many companies would offer new services and products geared to millennials. We did not see a lot of media coverage of that trend but we continue to believe that millennials will help change how things are being sold and marketed. But without significant media coverage, we considered that prediction to be somewhat of a dud.

One of the other predictions we think turned out to be a dud was about battles about free speech on college campuses.

As background, in 2017, we predicted:

The first amendment becomes a battle-ground issue. Between campus culture wars(regarding who can speak on campus and who can disrupt those who try to speak on campus),varying definitions of hate speech and the more-open expression of bigotry, the fight to protect free speech will generate coverage in 2018. Part of the challenge is a polarize climate is finding the balance between allowing free expression and preventing bigoted express.

In February 2018, we felt this New York Times’ article, “Republicans Stuff Education Bill With Conservative Social Agenda,” confirmed that as a trend. The article included pullout text that described a “590-page higher education bill working its way through Congress” as “a wish list for those who say their First Amendment rights are being trampled.”

But we didn’t see significant coverage beyond that so when we graded all our predictions, we graded harshly. We gave ourselves an F.

But in a recent article in the Intercept — published by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill to cover “national security, politics, civil liberties, the environment, international affairs, technology, criminal justice, the media, and more” — that looked at false media equivalencies in the wake of the white supremacist violence of the last 10 days, made the case that free speech on campus has generated significant media coverage this year.

As a false equivalency, the Intercept article points to a “pattern of both-siderism…and false equivalencies  after any of the 18 deaths caused by white supremacists violence in 2017.” As an example of false equivalency, the article noted that:

Instead, rivers of ink have been spilled condemning the disruption of Republican dinner plans and neo-Nazi speeches; according to FAIR, the New York Times alone featured 21 columns and articles this year expressing concern for right-wing speech on campus. 

We already issued our grade so we’re not going to go back in and boost the grade. But we feel like 21 columns and articles is a fair amount of coverage on the topic, and that we did a good job on that one after all.

Also, earlier this week, the Wall St. Journal reported that “Amazon in Late-Stage Talks With Cities Including Crystal City, Va., Dallas, New York City for HQ2.” We had predicted that Boston would not be picked, and unfortunately, we were right about that, too. At least we won the 2018 World Series (in a prediction we did not make).

Two other articles validate predictions we scored low. Both “Making Talk TV for a Post-TV Generation: ‘Busy Tonight’ and ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj’ are two different takes on what the talk show can be in the age of Instagram and Netflix” in the New York Times and “Office Workers Have a Major Hang Up—Their Desk Phones” in the Wall St. Journal, report on the impact that millennials are having on products and services. We gave ourselves a low score because we didn’t see a lot of coverage on this topic but it occurs to us, now, after we initially grade our predictions, that some of the millennials-bring-change stories have been more subtle in pointing out the reasons for how and why some products and services are changing.

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