As a Wesleyan alumnus and a former Argus circulation manager, I was disappointed by the responses of both Wesleyan students and the Argus to the controversy surrounding the Opinion piece, “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think.”
The Opinion section of a newspaper is exactly where opinions get published. A newspaper’s content is determined by its editors, not by its readership. Readers that wish to influence the content of a newspaper should join its editorial staff. While of course the free speech rights of readers (and editors) must be protected, the most effective venue for readers to express disagreement with a published opinion is in the letters to the editor section.
It is not appropriate for a newspaper to “stand in solidarity” with any movement. A newspaper should not apologize for an opinion piece. A newspaper is never obligated to simultaneously publish an opposing opinion.
Additionally, both the Argus staff and many Wesleyan students appear to be under the mistaken impression that a newspaper is obligated to “reflect the views and voices” of its readership. A newspaper is not meant to be a representative organization. It is meant to give all a chance to represent themselves. An inclusive newspaper does not exclude opinions.
It would have been better for the Argus to have remained silent about the controversy following publication of the op-ed piece, and then publish dissenting (and agreeing) letters to the editor. Then the Argus would have become a valuable conduit for an important campus conversation. That is how journalism should work in America.
I do hope that this experience will help both Wesleyan students and the Argus to better understand the proper role of journalism in our society.
Cohen is a member of the Class of 1976.