Nevo: The opinion section belongs to all

Lily Nevo, Opinion Editor

Ever since I started writing for the opinion section in fall 2020, the most common criticism of the desk that I have seen is that it does not represent a diverse set of viewpoints. The content produced by regular contributors, most of whom are undergraduate students, leans left, as does the undergraduate student body. 

A cop-out justification for the lack of viewpoint diversity is that it is hard to represent opinions when there are very few people in the Northwestern community who hold them. But this assumes that the “NU community” represented by The Daily is merely undergraduate students, forgetting that many of the demands for more moderate and conservative pieces come from alumni, Evanston residents or parents of students: all people The Daily serves. 

Though the opinion section will likely always be dominated by undergraduate student voices, given that the paper is student-run, this does not mean that other members of the NU and Evanston communities cannot contribute. In fact, the opinion section is the only section of The Daily where anyone, not just students, can contribute. In short, the opinion section belongs to you. 

Opinion writing is crucial to media consumers because it teaches us not just about what happened, but also how to feel about what happened. It is shamelessly subjective, allowing writers to contextualize issues in terms of their own identity. Opinion writing is a space for narratives that are historically excluded from “objective” journalism to thrive, as it asks writers not to forget their backgrounds, but to use their experiences — their pain, joy, and gratitude — to inform their arguments. 

It takes courage to write an opinion piece. Formulating a nuanced argument does not come easily, and writing about personal experiences requires plenty of emotional labor. I understand that attaching your name to an essay makes criticisms of it all the more personal, and this desk gets its fair share of criticism. It is not uncommon for writers to receive emails questioning their competence, especially, in my experience, when pieces are identity-based. 

The frequent hate mail does not come without a toll. Columnist retention continues to be a problem because regular writing requires not only time, but also emotional perseverance. Hate mail discourages new writers and unrepresented writers from continuing to participate. Hate mail prevents the section from providing a safe environment for all to contribute.

I do not condone personal, mean-spirited attacks, though I do support feedback and debate. If you disagree with a piece that is published, take the time to pen your own; this paper values your voice.

There is power in writing. I have written on this power for emotional processing, and some of the pieces I have published helped me do just that. There is power in telling your story and controlling your narrative. There is power in leaving a time capsule on the current state of NU affairs for future generations to look back on and see how the community reacted to various social movements. 

But with great power comes great responsibility, and I believe that the opinion section does not currently sufficiently represent the NU community. This quarter I seek to make the opinion section more accessible by creating new outlets to contribute and publishing content that hopefully makes people of all backgrounds feel safe in voicing their opinions. 

My vision for the opinion section is one of creativity, accountability and vulnerability. It is a community of support and a platform for dissent. It is a historical record of campus climate, and a litmus test for collective satisfaction. The opinion section is beautifully communal. The opinion section belongs to all, and it belongs to you. 

Lily Nevo is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. 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.