Letter to the Editor: What are unidimensional political opinions worth?

Norman C. Wang

A recent opinion piece by Alex Perry suggested a paywall to increase staff pay at The Daily. Perry correctly asked the question, “Is what we’re producing worth paying for?” As an alumnus who does not currently reside in Illinois and who does not have a journalism background but who has published several opinion pieces in The Daily through the years, I offer this perspective: in its current state, I do not believe The Daily is worth paying for.

The primary purpose that I read The Daily is to inform myself of the state of an institution, Northwestern University, that I was affiliated with for many years and that I hold high affection for. Major University events are often covered by Chicago newspapers, such as the Tribune and the Sun-Times. Therefore, one of the stronger enticements to read The Daily is the opinion section. Albeit biased, it provides a useful glimpse into campus life.

According to the 2019 diversity report, the political identification of The Daily staff was 55.9 percent moderate left, 35.5 percent far left and 4.4 percent centrist. Thus, only 4.2 percent remained to be moderate right, far right or without identification. The 2020 and 2021 diversity reports did not disclose updated information on political identification. As unsurprising as it is that few — if any — identified as far right, it is stunning that over one-third identified as far left. Far left politics has led to mass human extermination — largely due to famine and execution — around the globe during the 20th century.

I believe this imbalance of perspectives is reflected in the opinion section in recent years. Animated debate on charged topics, such as a recent exchange between Deanna Othman and Jonathan Kamel on Zionism, are too rare. As such, it is a disservice to both readers and contributors. Unidimensional politics not only tends toward totalitarianism, where those with differing options are vilified, but also deprives writers of the opportunity to have their positions challenged. Intellectual rigor demands opposition.

Whether a subscription-based model would yield higher revenue than “advertisements and donations” is worth debate. It is also worth pondering whether more balance in the political identification of the staff — to foster more active and nuanced discussion within the opinion section — would lead to more alumni interest and donations. Exposure to a variety of positions on important topics of our day is an essential component of higher education. This is worth paying for.

Norman C. Wang, McCormick ’94, Feinberg ’98

If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, 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.

Related Stories:

Perry: Paywall, please!

Kamel: Like most things in life, Zionism is not black and white

Othman: Anti-Zionism is anti-racist, not antisemitic