The Daily Northwestern

Closson: Saying goodbye to the Opinion Desk, and all its high and lows

Troy Closson, Opinion Editor

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Running the Opinion Desk for the past two quarters, putting it mildly, has been an experience. If you told me Fall Quarter of my freshman year that I’d end up running this desk once — let alone doing it twice — there’s no way I would’ve believed it. I had literally no interest in writing, editing or publishing opinion columns and didn’t see that changing. Somehow, I still ended up on this desk.

And it’s been a journey of highs and lows.

I personally could’ve done without the weekly hostile responses — often more like full-fledged essays — to my columns from people who thought the best way to start a productive dialogue was being rude, extra and blatantly offensive. Hearing students throughout campus hate on this section without understanding the work that went into running it got annoying at times. And I won’t even start on the meme page.

But despite how unnecessary much of that was, I still wouldn’t change anything about my time on this desk. After a while, I learned how to ignore the recurrent emails. Hearing people’s issues with this section made me work harder to ensure we didn’t publish offensive, poorly written columns or letters. And luckily, I don’t have a Facebook so I just avoided the memes altogether.

But while it’s easy to single out the discouraging elements of doing this, it wasn’t all bad.

When I first ran this desk in the fall, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle my own opinions, much less those of everyone else on campus. For a long time, I really had no idea what I was doing. But I’m thankful for all the people who helped me out along the way.

I also learned a lot from everyone else who wrote for this section. Many of my columns related to my identities and concerns that connected to them. But reading and editing columns from people whose takes I disagreed with, tackled issues I didn’t understand and brought perspectives that I’d never considered to the table allowed me to take in as much as I put in to this position. It’s easy to feel like Northwestern is just an echo chamber of progressive ideas — in many ways, it can be— but don’t convince yourself there’s nothing to learn from everyone else here. Speaking from experience on this desk, I know that’s not true.

Still, the biggest impact this desk has had on me was more personal. I started off at The Daily as a sports and campus reporter. But I moved to the Opinion desk last winter, largely because I struggled being a student here. Coming from a high school and hometown that were much more racially diverse than Northwestern, I was overwhelmed being a black student here and wasn’t sure if this was a place I could actually get used to. Throughout my time at Opinion, I’ve been able to navigate my identity and actually make sense of it — both in the context of this campus and more broadly. And if I hadn’t written for opinion the past three quarters, I don’t think I’d feel any better about being here.

To people who feel the need to criticize this desk regardless of what we do or don’t publish, remember that the people writing and editing are just students too. Personally, I didn’t really care that much about the hate, but for others, it builds up. If we run insensitive or offensive pieces, call us out. But at the same time, remember that the point of an opinion desk isn’t to agree with everything we print.

Even though I’m ready to take a break from Opinion for a while, a big part of me is also going to miss the platform it provides — for me, for other columnists and for anyone else who wants to get something off their chest. Despite the low points throughout the past two quarters, I wouldn’t do any of it differently. I won’t miss the hate mail, but I’ll always be thankful for the hot takes.

Troy Closson is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at troyclosson@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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