In our last issue (Feb. 28), we ran an opinion piece by a non-staff member that generated quite a few comments and even a bit of controversy. The article in question addressed the behavior of students—specifically Bible and theology majors—and encouraged them to live up to their Christian calling. We ended up getting quite a bit of feedback about the story, some affirming, some outraged.
We initially received the article over a month ago. It was one that simply dropped in our laps, so to speak, and the other editors and I were delighted to receive a well-written and substantial article from a non-staffer. In our Policy Manual, one of our goals is to “provide a public forum for student expression,” and one of the ways we accomplish that is by publishing opinion pieces from students.
We quickly recognized that this particular piece had the potential to generate some controversy. I had a long conversation with several of the other editors on staff about how we should approach it. We asked questions about libel, ethics and everything in between, actively drawing upon things we had learned in journalism classes such as Media Law. We ended up sitting down with the writer and suggesting some revisions. The writer cooperated and we ultimately published the article.
Journalism is great when you publish things people like and get a lot of positive feedback. That isn’t always the case, though, especially in the opinion section. Part of learning to be a journalist is learning to accept criticism. In this case, I think we did our job as a student publication by serving as a platform on which students can debate and discuss issues that affect them. We invite students to submit opinion pieces about anything–including responses to articles we publish that invite conversation and disagreement, such as this one.
When it comes to opinion pieces, we can’t shy away from publishing things that might be challenging or even offensive at times. We also can’t publish things without thinking long and hard about whether we’re making the right decision. For that, we have our faculty advisor, the guidelines in our Policy Manual and ultimately our own knowledge and decision making skills to rely on.
NOTE: Students are free to e-mail opinion pieces and letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. We edit all articles for style, grammar and content, and submission of an article doesn’t guarantee publication. However, if you’ve got an opinion and would like to write something, we’d love to hear from you!
Categories: Reporters' Blog