On Aug. 15, The Boston Globe published an editorial, “Journalists are not the enemy,” denouncing President Trump’s repeated labeling of the “fake news media” as “the enemy of the American People.” The Globe editorial board also encouraged local newspapers across the country to publish editorials simultaneously. In response, over 300 papers, with both liberal and conservative editorial stances, wrote pieces in defense of an “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” (to quote the New York Times editorial) free press.
While I cannot agree more with the intention of these editorials, I cannot help but wonder about the optics of the coordinated response. To many supporters of the president, these editorial responses probably only confirm what they already believe: That is, that the mainstream media is conspiring to paint an unflattering portrait of Trump. Granted, I admit that these newspapers were placed in a bind by the president’s words. Either the editorial boards could rightfully defend the existence of a free press, or they could allow Trump’s comments to go unchecked. The former option is preferred, but there could perhaps be a better way of effecting it.
What we need to remember is that the opinions section, editorial boards included, does not form the core of what newspapers accomplish. News articles, backed by solid reporting, are the bread and butter of the format. While inherent bias can affect reporting (specifically, what gets reported), the news article is not the domain of opinion. It’s the domain of fact.
The opinions section complements news reporting, but it could by no means supplant it. The opinion section reacts to the news of the day, the week and the era. Various media outlets offer distinct perspectives, and this diversity is something to be cherished. But just because the editorial board of a publication does not align with a particular reader’s views mean that its objective reporting can be discounted.
The coordinated editorials perhaps needed to make the distinction between news and opinion more clear. The editorial boards needed to position themselves humbly, in recognition that they are subordinate to almost everything else published. We live in an era where the opinion pieces of The Washington Post or Fox News get far more likes and clicks than any news reporting by the two outlets; clickbait titles, preying on the desire to validate one’s own beliefs, cannot determine the future of the news media.
I would like to manage the Collegian opinions section in a manner aligned to the one recommended above. The opinions section will be a space where community members can react to the news of the day, the College and the nation. Some pieces may be controversial, as I will seek to publish from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. But I am not in the business of publishing to boost one’s ego or to lob criticism after criticism against our rapidly changing college. I am in the business of humble opinions, of measured critiques of events and actions and of supporting the other work of this paper.
Cameron Austin is a junior mathematics major from Chattanooga, Tenn. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org