Responsible Journalism Does Not Censor Community Voices

Two weeks ago, several editors at the Review, myself included, made the choice to publish an interview with Lorain County Republican Chairman David Arredondo. Sam Beesley’s article “Arredondo Interview Harmful, Offensive” criticizes the Review for publishing the interview, claiming that the interview was offensive and should not have been published. I disagree with this critique, and I want to make clear that the choice to publish the interview was made thoughtfully and with consideration of our journalistic values. 

One of the reasons I became interested in working in student journalism is because of my belief in the importance of a free press. While Beesley criticizes the publication of the interview as a “dangerous step to the right,” I believe that a free press is critical to preserving democracy, and this is especially important in a town as small as Oberlin. The Review is a unique space on campus that brings together dialogue between students, College administrators, and community members in a way no other campus or community publication does. These conversations can’t occur if we don’t allow a large segment of our population to speak. As an editor, it is not my job to police the beliefs of the people we report on, but instead deliver information as fairly and truthfully as possible.  

I believe that it was important to publish Arredondo’s words because of the audience that the Review publishes for. Although the Review is a college newspaper, it is also the sole paper of record for the City of Oberlin, serving a unique role that most college papers do not. Because we represent voices beyond the Oberlin student body, we are constantly telling stories about challenges and triumphs in the wider Oberlin community including coverage on community members, the local schools, the city government, and even local political leaders. In addition, as an editor, I am constantly aware of another unique aspect of the College — most students are guests in the town, which is drastically different from our own “Oberlin bubble.” Part of living in a community that is not your own means holding space for voices you may disagree with, and I try to reflect that in my work at the Review

I also believe that the Review does work hard to “promote voices usually ignored by our white supremacist society.” Such a claim shows a blatant disregard for the diverse voices that do consistently appear in our paper. For example, the writer ignores that we consistently publish powerful writing from students of color, which is readily apparent in our weekly coverage. It’s also disheartening to hear such a strong response to a voice you might disagree with in our newspaper in the same semester that students could barely muster a response to our coverage of the allegations of Professor of Religion and Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in Middle East and North African Studies Mohammad Jafar Mahallati. If students really are concerned about dismantling white supremacist society, they should pay these issues as much attention as they do an interview with community leader they disagree with. 

We published the interview with Arredondo to promote a much-needed dialogue between students and community members in this town. I am excited to hear that students read the interview and have thoughts on it, but we do not exist in a vacuum. There is value in making a diversity of opinions available to the public. It is up to the individual student if they want to read or sit this one out. The fact that the interview has been in the top five most-read articles on our website for the last three weeks is evidence that students and community members are curious about the thoughts of a prominent leader in our county — whether or not they agree with the opinion.