On Wednesday, Nov. 10, our staff made the decision to omit a quotation we deemed offensive from centerfold. We perceived that the quotation minimized the Black experience and presumed knowledge on struggles faced by the Black community in Newton in a way impossible for the white interviewee to possess.
In choosing to exclude this quo-tation, we weighed the benefits of sharing a perspective unique from others represented in the article with its potential harm. We broadened this discussion to consider our paper’s treatment of the controversial views of students in our community.
Learning from different perspectives and giving students an outlet to voice their opinions is invaluable; however, this cannot come at the cost of validating hateful comments, forcing already-marginalized communities to hear arguments callous to their struggles or intellectualizing basic human rights.
A newspaper’s role is to expose its audience to myriad opinions, using its platform to offer diverse and well-substantiated perspectives to provide readers with ample content to develop their own views.
While one opts into being interviewed and reading articles in a newspaper, this same freedom is not guaranteed in person-to-person interactions, where members of marginalized communities are often forced to educate the majority when confronted with incorrect statements or assumptions. As interacting with a newspaper’s content is voluntary, publications serve a unique role: we can share a range of viewpoints with minimized risk of inflicting harm.
As the newspaper representing South’s student body, The Roar is responsible for covering the topics and perspectives relevant to our community, rather than to the general population. In a politically liberal environment like our own, we must make a conscious effort to seek out unpopular opinions, particularly when individuals may feel unwelcome sharing them.
We’re in a position to shape our community’s views, as our readers do not know which opinions we include and which we leave out. To exclude an opinion, therefore, would be to misinform our readership — to rip out pages of a book. Each issue, we select interviewees, quotations and arguments to achieve comprehensive coverage, but there is a human element in this process. As a staff, we must assess our subconscious biases that influence these decisions.
But what does “offering diverse and well-substantiated perspectives” mean in a community whose views appear uniform?
First, it’s necessary to acknowledge that within our like-minded community, dissenting opinions exist. Unlike large-scale news organizations, such as CNN and Fox, The Roar has no counterpart that supplements our coverage. Thus, it is our responsibility to cover all opinions, not just those of the majority or those we agree with. Providing each opinion with equal space would misrepresent our community’s values. If the majority of our interviewees provide similar opinions, that viewpoint should receive the most — but not exclusive — airtime. Moreover, we have the opportunity to explore not only different opinions, but the many nuanced experiences that inform them. Interviewing one student with a given opinion on a binary issue doesn’t satisfy the need for more interviewees who reach the same conclusion but approach the topic with a different lived experience.
This plan runs into a roadblock when one of the opinions we strive to represent is hateful. There is a difference between reflecting the community’s opinions and giving bigots a platform to spread hate. Though harmful quotations should and will not be shared, it is important that we acknowledge that the opinion exists. The Roar is not a celebrity endorsing a brand — our inclusion of a quotation or opinion piece isn’t the staff ’s agreement with it, nor our attempt to convince our readership that it is true.
This is not the first, nor will it be the last time we are faced with the decision of whether or not to include a quotation or perspective in our paper. Though classifying an opinion as hateful is subjective, we can reach the best decision determining a perspective’s inclusion through dialogue. We understand that this is not an easy choice to make — it’s a decision of the whole staff, not a select few. Similarly, we know that our role as the school newspaper is not to reflect the opinions of our staff members, but the views of our community. These values will continue to guide us in determining how and in what capacity we include different opinions in our paper.