Opinions Section Crucial in Age of Post-Truth

Sami Mericle, Opinions Editor

When I interviewed for the position of the Review’s Opinions Editor at the end of last semester, I stumbled over the first question: “Why do you want the job?”

At the time, I couldn’t honestly answer that I thought Opinions was a crucial component of the paper. I’m a fact-oriented person, inclined toward reading news reports and indisposed to personal blogs. But I got the job — despite my initial misstep — and spent the summer reading op-eds and learning about their importance to the community.

One of my hesitations in running the Opinions section is that public discourse already has far too many opinions with little basis in fact. This phenomenon has led to what many are calling the age of “post-truth politics.” We’ve seen this in the form of Donald Trump, who has ascended to the position of Republican presidential nominee by spouting lies. PolitiFact has investigated 239 of Trump’s statements and rated a full 70 percent of them “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire.” We’ve seen this in the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union — known as Brexit — during which the Leave campaign made misleading promises, such as indicating that an additional 350 million pounds per week would go to the National Health Service.

In an era in which lies abound, well-researched opinions are all the more important. The Opinions section provides the opportunity for writers to expose fallacies in political arguments. While most respectable news organizations have finally learned to fact-check his statements, op-ed writers across the country were calling Trump on his lies while other journalists were merely reporting his quotes.

At Oberlin, you’ve no doubt heard the old adage that liberal arts schools teach you how to think. The same is true for opinions: well-reasoned, fact-based op-eds help readers learn how to form and express arguments that are rooted in truth and aligned with their values. My priority this year is to make sure that articles are based in facts, and the Review’s trusty fact checkers will ensure those facts are accurate.

The Opinions section also provides a place for community members to share their personal stories. Campus discourse is ruled by identity politics based in personal experience. For change to be enacted, we must listen to each others’ experiences, and the Opinions section is a forum where anybody can document their stories, whether student, staff or town resident. It is also a place to highlight the diversity on campus and amplify minority voices.

Further, opinions pieces can bring attention to issues that may not be newsworthy or are otherwise ignored. For instance, the News section of the Review rarely covers stories outside of Lorain County. But we would publish an op-ed about an international event if the writer could make a strong case that it is relevant to the Oberlin community. Opinions can also be used to highlight Oberlin issues that don’t make the news. Last year, we published letters to the editors on everything from jaywalking to food trucks, none of which would have been newsworthy on their own.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, Opinions is a forum for community debate. Writers can air grievances or praise policy changes. When a scandal erupted last year surrounding Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition Joy Karega’s anti-Semitic Facebook posts, the Review Opinions section was at the heart of the debate about how the community should respond. Professors, students and alumni used our pages for discussion and debate, and these articles no doubt influenced the decisions of the administration.

So please, take advantage of this forum, and submit your opinions for publication.