So much happened this summer, we as The Daily’s new Opinion Editors do not even know where to begin our first column of the school year. The terror of the white nationalist attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, feels too present and too threatening to even attempt to make sense of. A repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is too menacing to put into words. For days we watched with empathy as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma swept through, yet still so many believe climate change is not real.
With so much national news, major international catastrophes — deadly floods in South Asia, earthquakes in Mexico, among others — were almost footnotes in TV news programming. Waking up and seeing breaking news notifications pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day.
And yet, here we all are. You, us, the rest of Northwestern, the rest of the U.S. and the world — trying and pushing forward, with the resolution that we will not watch in silence. Though editing the opinion section of a student newspaper perhaps won’t change things in the greater scheme of life, we believe that we can at least have an effect on smaller-picture things that impact our day-to-day.
We write this not only to try to make sense of what is going on in the world but as a way to introduce ourselves as The Daily’s new Opinion Editors. To address the elephant in the room — yes, the two of us are students of color. In fact, we are two of the few Latinx and black students working at The Daily. Journalism, as some of you may know, is an incredibly white business. Although our campus is somewhat “diverse,” it is still a primarily white institution, and alienating spaces still exist. Though we can’t magically change that overnight, we can at least try to help voices often unheard at Northwestern find a stage.
We weren’t assigned these positions as a thinly veiled effort to make our newsroom look more “diverse,” as if the opinion section were a college brochure and our readers were high school seniors looking for a home. We are very aware of the newsroom’s lack of diversity, and we won’t pretend it is not an issue. We won’t pretend that past content in this section has been perfect. Both of us applied for this job not only because we have things we want to say ourselves, but also because we want to help others have better access to our pages so that they, too, can speak their minds — without feeling pressure to represent an entire identity group.
We also want to address another criticism of The Daily that we are very aware of and acknowledge to have some truth — our section hasn’t highlighted many conservative voices in the past. Northwestern is, after all, a liberal-leaning campus. We know we cannot erase that reputation, but we invite differing opinions to join our ongoing discussions. These are times when we are having difficult conversations, and we will not shut down sides we disagree with. The Daily’s Opinion section is open for all to join in respectful dialogue with their peers, to bring issues to their attention, to offer counterviews and new ideas. We want to know what is on your mind, and we want to help you put it into words.
However, we will not tolerate hate. We will not stand for factual inaccuracies. We will defend the First Amendment, but we will not defend or publish racist, homophobic, xenophobic statements or any other content that harms members of our community. The opinion section is not a safe space — we want ideas to be challenged — but this is also not a place for obscene or inflammatory rhetoric to receive any form of attention.
These are really confusing, stressful times. Lately trying to make sense of pretty much anything on the front page of a newspaper can be overwhelming. But we have to try. Constant dialogue, constant reflection is one way to make sure we move forward without repeating the same mistakes of the past. Many outlets exist for having these discussions. But when it comes to our community, to our Northwestern — especially for issues directly impacting our own campus — we believe our opinion section has the power to make a difference. Make yourself heard. Your opinion is valuable.
Mariana Alfaro is a Medill senior and Troy Closson is a Medill sophomore. Mariana can be contacted at [email protected] and Troy can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.