Columbia Journalism School News Outlet’s Bus Segregation Report Has New York City Abuzz

A report from a journalism school’s news outlet about bus segregation has New York City abuzz– with the mayor and New York Times weighing in.

A story appearing earlier this week on the homepage of The New York World— a site affiliated with Columbia University’s j-school and run by recent alums– revealed that a public bus in Brooklyn requires women to sit in the back, separate from men.  The eye-opening gender-segregation is apparently in deference to the beliefs of the Hasidic Jewish communities the bus line serves.

According to the World, male riders of the bus repeatedly told a woman who sat at the front last week to move to the rear.  As the article, by Sasha Chavkin, confirmed, “They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a ‘private bus’ and a ‘Jewish bus.’  When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her. ‘If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?‘”

The World piece “gained widespread publicity” almost immediately after publication.  A related NYT story ran yesterday.  The city’s transportation department and human rights commission are also now looking into what seem to be clear violations of anti-discrimination laws.  And NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has voiced his concern.  As the NYT write-up noted, “Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, the mayor said that segregating men and women was ‘obviously not permitted’ on public buses.  ‘Private people: you can have a private bus,’ he added. ‘Go rent a bus, and do what you want on it.'”

The World is an interesting academic-professional hybrid– aligned with a journalism school; funded by private donors and a few top-notch external foundations; and staffed by Columbia post-grads serving out one-year appointments.

As the About page states, “The New York World produces accountability journalism devoted to deepening public understanding of the ways city and state government shape life in New York City. Our news stories and data projects illuminate issues and engage New Yorkers with information about how their city works. . . . The New York World was inspired in part by News 21, a nationwide effort to teach, challenge, and prepare the next generation of news industry leaders.”

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