We must support the free expression of ideas.

Letter from the Editor

in Letters from the editor by

We must support the free expression of ideas.

By Maddy Simpson

Throughout the year, the Clarion staff has been confronted with complaints about The Clarion from the Bethel community, mainly about story idea choices and opinion pieces. These complaints come both directly and through emails.

Some have warned me to be careful, that The Clarion is “turning into a soapbox for liberal reporters.” A liberal-leaning group on campus said they refuse to read the Clarion due to missing data on a demographic chart, a mistake we made early in the year. Bonfires were thrown where The Clarion was burned because of opinion pieces we published last issue.

To left-leaning minds on campus, The Clarion is too conservative. To right-leaning minds on campus, The Clarion is too liberal.

Maybe we’re doing something right.

In the March 30 issue of the Clarion, we published a piece called “Would You Like Some Iced Tea,” reader Grant Mortenson’s response to a cover story written about safe spaces on campus. We clearly labelled the piece “READER OPINION” at the top of the page and prefaced it with our disclaimer.

That disclaimer, found at the beginning of every opinion-based piece in the Clarion, reads: “The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Clarion, its staff or the institution.” The disclaimer then invites the Bethel community to respond with their own pieces. This issue, we received six and had room for four of them.

Mortenson’s response was met with anger on campus. I received phone calls pushing me to release a statement on why we published the piece. Many reporters were directly confronted about our decision. Classes had discussions about viewpoints in the article. The editorial staff was met with questions: Why would the Clarion publish this? Why would we allow this type of piece to be printed?

The Clarion’s opinion section is meant to allow our community to freely exchange ideas and opinions in a public forum. When we look at opinion pieces and responses that are sent in, we consider a few criteria:

We look at the writing itself. Is the piece written well enough to be published in the Clarion? If not, we bring the authors in and work with them to try to transform the piece into something that is ready for print. Sometimes pieces are sent in ready to go, but many are sent back with suggestions and ideas to make the piece clear and strong.

We also look at whether the piece adds to a conversation. If a piece is a rant that adds little to public discourse, we will not publish it. If the piece is purely meant to be combative or controversial for no purpose, we will not publish it.

In publishing “Would You Like Some Iced Tea,” Mortenson sent a piece that met our standards. Some Clarion staff fiercely disagreed with Mortenson’s point. But we don’t publish pieces based on whether we agree with them.

Regardless of whether we agreed, we stand behind the publication of both “Would You Like Some Iced Tea” and any other opinion piece we publish, whether the piece leans left or right. In this decision, we are supporting freedom of speech. We are supporting the right for those in our community to voice opinions that bring important discussions to our classrooms, dorms and the Dining Center.

As journalists and as Christians, it is our job to bring the truth into the light. The Bethel community includes people from different backgrounds, different races, different countries and different perspectives on the world. In order to understand each other, we first must hear each other. The only way to hear each other is to stand behind freedom of speech.

We must support the free expression of ideas.

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