2018 was ushered in by the mainstream media as a year of tremendous tragedy all around. As these events, such as mass shootings, conflict in global affairs, and Presidential affairs were cast into the spotlight, so too were overwhelming opinions on how they should be handled. Journalism, for better or worse, became a facts and opinion business, sometimes sacrificing facts for opinion.
I just graduated with a degree in journalism, with communication, and history minors from Lindsey Wilson College (LWC), a small liberal arts college in Kentucky. During my four years at LWC, I was involved with the student newspaper and on campus events showcasing the importance of journalism and activism within the community. My senior year, I was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, with a push for editorials being one of my main goals for the staff.
So often in mainstream journalism today, we are only given two sides to an issue, when, in reality, there are so many more viewpoints that exist than mainstream thinking suggests.
I remember writing an editorial about gun control in light of the various tragedies that plagued early 2018, albeit from a conservative perspective. However, after a polarizing 2016 election cycle, conservatism on liberal arts campuses fell to a largely silent minority. Mainstream media have long held that there is one opinion and the facts should be presented in a way to fit that truth, regardless of the issue.
I witnessed social media backlash from expressing dissenting, conservative opinions on the issue of gun control, regardless of how well-made or factual the argument was. I was wary of expressing my own right-leaning beliefs, even though they were based on research. Throughout this same time, I was applying to various law schools, and didn’t want to risk my own conservative views hurting my chances of being selected for admission. This is a legitimate concern, considering only 13 percent of law school faculty across the country identify as Republican or Libertarian.
I did not agree with many mainstream opinions that held such tragedies could be prevented through overarching gun control measures, nor did I agree with the argument being made that there have been over 20 school shootings in 2018 alone in the US, as I held that many in the mainstream media were not classifying school shootings in the correct fashion. And yet I was too afraid to express these views because of the undeniable backlash I would receive.
I didn’t publish the editorial. I didn’t want to speak up for my minority opinion and I failed at protecting the role of journalism for such an important issue. There were various members of the staff who did not feel comfortable with their own opinions on issues like this one, as they too did not want to have their work condemned, or risk being judged in an academic sense for a potential disagreement of popular beliefs.
The line between free speech, free press, and hate speech is not as blurred on a private, liberal arts campus like the one I attended. Students on private campuses do have different rights than those on publicly funded campuses when it comes to censorship of speech and press, but, in the era of such polarization, there is not a value being placed on different perspectives on a college campus. Those who disagree are automatically dismissed because of their more conservative views, and it is up to students, journalists, and the faculty to preserve the right to do so before it is too late.