On April 12, 2017, the New York Times announced the hiring of Bret Stephens, a conservative, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. The Times was hit with harsh criticism from a variety of sources almost immediately, especially after the publication of Stephens’ first column. In a Facebook Live video addressing the questions and concerns of loyal readers, Nicholas Kristof, a Times columnist since 2001, said that the New York Times “need[s] more conservative voices.” He continued to say, “I disagree profoundly with [Stephens] on a lot of issues, but I’ve also learned an awful lot from reading him over the last 11 or 12 years.”
While it is the mission of journalism, and of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, to be an unbiased source of news, the opinion and editorial section acts in a different way entirely. In the newsroom, our job is to report the truth. In the Op/Ed section, our job is to challenge how you interpret that truth, taking a subjective position on an issue and creating a persuasive argument for or against it.
The Op/Ed page is not a representation of the views and values of the newspaper, but it is instead a representation of the varying viewpoints of the public. The pieces we publish are meant to start conversations about the issues that affect our community, and our Op/Ed page serves as a platform for any and all students and community members to express their opinions in a logical and professional manner.
And when we say any and all students, we do mean any and all students. Everyone is encouraged to submit content, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliation or ideology.
That being said, not every piece that is submitted to the Collegian makes it to publication. Every article and column we publish goes through a rigorous editing process with a minimum of three well-trained editors independently checking every fact and claim. Only after hours of review are pieces finally published. Additionally, we have a policy to not publish any content that is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise inherently hateful. During the editing process, we frequently have discussions about the ethics of certain arguments and unsound articles are cut from publication, sometimes within minutes of our 1:30 a.m. deadline.
Our system is not without flaws. We are students that are constantly growing in our craft, and we make mistakes. But we hold ourselves to the absolute highest standard, seeking to learn from every mistake and improve both ourselves as writers and editors, and also improve the newspaper that we are all endlessly proud of.
In our polarized political climate, it is important now more than ever to listen to each other with the intention to hear and learn, not to disregard every viewpoint that is contrary to our own. The hiring of Stephens at the Times was not incidental, nor does it tarnish their reputation as a reputable source of fair and objective news. If anything, it reaffirms their status as an unbiased source, now taking a step toward a more balanced opinion section.
Our content is not supposed to be comfortable, our content is supposed to start a conversation. But the conversation shouldn’t just start and end on social media. We encourage our readers to participate in these conversations with us, and encourage anyone and everyone to submit content. Submit a counterpoint, submit a Letter to the Editor or submit a column; become an active participant in the ongoing dialogue that the Op/Ed page is supposed to be.
No Op/Ed page would be complete without differing viewpoints. No true opinion is without an opposing one, and no true point is without a counterpoint. At the Collegian, we will continue to publish both the points and the counterpoints, remaining a fair platform for all, because that is our job. We publish well-researched, well-written, fair and balanced arguments about issues that are relevant to our student body, whether those arguments are favorable or not.
David Cole of the American Civil Liberties Union once said, “We believe that the right of free speech, peacefully expressed, must extend even to those with whom we most vehemently disagree.” This is a value that we at the Collegian hold dearly, and will continue to hold. We will not be an echo chamber, and we will not change our standards in the face of criticism. We will stand united behind our writers, and remain a fair source of news and opinion for the University of Massachusetts campus.
This unsigned editorial represents the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian Editorial Board, members of which can be reached at [email protected]