The Daily Northwestern

Letter from the Editors: Opinion should add humanity to the news

Marissa Martinez and Alex Schwartz, Opinion Editors

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Returning to campus from yet another summer full of political drama, a nonstop news cycle and increasingly volatile discourse, it seems as if we’re less and less likely to agree on things. In a moment when the truth seems to take a backseat to speculation and fabrication, it’s hard to look to opinion journalism as being conducive to public dialogues. But the stories we tell on this page are more valuable than we realize because they are just that: stories.

Last quarter, we published the first report on diversity at The Daily. It made it clear that acknowledging our lack of diversity and representation is the first of many steps in becoming a more inclusive publication. Part of that journey is diversifying the takes we publish on the Opinion page. “Diverse,” in this context, is multilayered. We want to continue striving for ideological diversity without publishing harmful or offensive content, but we also want to expand the idea of what an opinion piece can be, especially in the context of Northwestern.

As hard as it can be to admit, we columnists are college students — we are rarely experts in the topics we decide to write about; there are very few complex societal issues that we have authority over. But the one thing we can speak confidently about is our own individual experiences and how they fit into larger narratives.

It’s easy to pick an event in the news and offer your take on it. That take can be an articulately-communicated perspective that adds something to the conversation, but it also has the capacity to get it very wrong. On the other hand, writing about your own experiences is just as valid and can contribute just as much to a dialogue. Regardless of how personal they are, we see columns as slices of perspective, snapshots of someone else’s thoughts. While no one should underestimate the talents of NU students and the value of their opinions, we want to include more stories that aren’t strictly commentary. We’re even planning to launch several multimedia projects to extend the reach of Opinion beyond the page.

We want this section to contribute to campus dialogue, and that means focusing on issues that manifest themselves in this community while providing a space for a respectful exchange of views. Publishing a column may seem like an isolated act, but in reality it’s the start of a back-and-forth between the writer and their audience. We want to provide a space for all aspects of that conversation and elevate it above quippy Facebook comments. We encourage letters to the editor that respond to pieces we publish and go beyond a quick jab at their writers. We believe there is humanity in opinion, that there are human beings behind these columns who have the ability to understand perspectives different from their own.

This section always needs as many different perspectives as possible in order to successfully do its job, and that means recruiting columnists whose stories we don’t hear often. Whether it’s through The Spectrum, our series for personal stories from marginalized identities, or simply by illuminating a side of an issue few people have considered, personal narratives are key to bringing more tolerance and acceptance to our lives and to solving the complex issues that our society faces.

Even just this summer, we’ve seen opinion journalism that focuses on the human side of an issue impact conversations in profound ways, whether through the countless stories survivors tell of sexual assault and harassment, a firefighter’s observations of wildfires being exacerbated by climate change or even the infamous New York Times op-ed revealing a resistance of President Trump from within the White House. These accounts give us insight into perspectives we would otherwise never encounter, and they are just as important to understanding an issue as statistics and facts. As much as some would like to deny it, subjective experience cannot be discounted, and feelings cannot be disregarded. There’s something so powerful about hearing just one person’s experience and seeing the human cost of an abstract issue.

To people who are told every day that they are less than; your stories matter, and they can change the the world. And we want this space to be an outlet for you to tell those stories.

Marissa Martinez is a Medill sophomore and Alex Schwartz is a Medill junior. They can be contacted at and, respectively. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.