Opinion

Staff Editorial: We won’t silence student voices

Recently there has been a lot of confusion regarding the function and responsibilities of The Mac Weekly, especially concerning our role in moderating the Opinion section. Given how individual staff members and the paper itself have been treated, we feel compelled to write this staff editorial clarifying appropriate modes of interaction with the school newspaper.

When submitting an opinion piece, contributors should send the finished piece to Kacie Reilly and Richard Raya, this semester’s Opinion co-editors. A great deal of correspondence has been directed solely at Richard, which, regardless of intention, is highly disrespectful to Kacie.

Pieces should be sent in by the deadline—the Monday before the Friday publication—to allow us time to plan spacing accordingly. If we receive a piece after this deadline, we might not have the space to accommodate all submissions.

Any feedback or requests regarding already-published pieces should be emailed exclusively to Kacie and Richard; if the occasion warrants it, Amy Lebowitz, the Editor-in-Chief, welcomes feedback as well. While we understand that ours is a small community and that friendships with The Mac Weekly staff members seem convenient avenues for all newspaper-related communication, it is inappropriate to bombard the News editors with Opinion-related feedback. Please respect our jobs on staff, and we will do our best to execute them with ardor and care.

As an organization, The Mac Weekly holds many responsibilities, and it is absolutely important to acknowledge that we have, at times, defaulted on those responsibilities. We have misgendered community members, we have failed to conduct thorough research and community relationships have been jeopardized by the ways interviews were conducted. We own our mistakes. Owning them allows us to strive for improved representation, inclusivity and professionalism going forward.

It is appropriate to (constructively) criticize The Mac Weekly’s reporting of stories. However, the Opinion section is a different matter entirely. It is not a product of our own reporting, but of the claims of individual contributors.

The Opinion section’s purpose is to publish the voices of non-staff members in the Mac community. While we do edit Opinion pieces for factual accuracy, inclusive language and grammar, The Mac Weekly does not take responsibility for the sentiments expressed within contributors’ pieces, nor do we subject these pieces to the same level of fact-checking required of news stories. We trust community members to research their opinions. Hateful or injurious opinions may be censored; inflammatory ones will not.

We reject the notion that we are responsible for protecting the reputations of community members or organizations. We provide a forum for a variety of voices, and just as we are committed to that forum remaining a safe and inclusive space, it should indisputably remain an open one.

Recently we have been approached by a variety of people on campus requesting that we delay the publication of timely Opinion pieces. That is intimidation and it is censorship and, to be honest, it almost worked.

Afraid of upsetting powerful entities on campus, we only planned for a modest Opinion section this week despite the submission of several impassioned pieces. After a meeting of the Managing Editors, however, we decided that, as an independent student newspaper, we would be doing a disservice to our community by succumbing to intimidation. This led to disarray and undue stress the night of layout, for both writers and editors, as we raced against the clock to do the ethical and simple thing: publish timely Opinion pieces.

In this specific instance, MPIRG was barred from campaigning on its own behalf until November 10. We fully intend to publish all submissions in support of MPIRG’s interests in our November 14 issue. It is our understanding, however, that all concerned Macalester individuals retain their right to publish opinions regarding the MPIRG referendum, whether in support or opposition, during the intervening time. In fact, we view this as a purpose of the non-campaigning period—to grant unaffiliated individuals an unencumbered time for expression.

We will not bow to the pressures of extra-loud voices, and we will not suppress voices that have every right to be heard. Rejecting, or even delaying, the publication of an opinion is antithetical to our purpose.

To request the silencing of dissenting opinions is reprehensible. We are angry and insulted that members of our community have issued such requests. We will not tolerate them.

Moving forward, we welcome any and all submissions. But be advised that we are accountable to this community as a whole, not to specific sides of campus squabbles. We will not defend you from scrutiny, but we will publish your retort to that scrutiny. We will not be intimidated into privileging certain voices, but we will instead expand the Opinion section so that all voices can be heard.

Amy Lebowitz, Richard Raya, Kacie Reilly,
Heather Johansen, Joe Klein and Lindsey Smith

November 7, 2014

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