When I transferred from the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha to UW-Madison in the fall of 2016, I knew I was entering a very different political climate. I spent my first two years at a small commuter college in a county that regularly votes around 70% Republican. By contrast, UW-Madison was a massive complex with 40,000 students in a county that votes typically around 70% Democrat.
Conservatives in Wisconsin routinely make jokes about Madison. Governor Lee Dreyfus once called the city “30 square miles surrounded by reality.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison is known for its deeply leftist history. It has been nicknamed the “Berkeley of the Midwest.” Nevertheless, I was happy to attend a university that was guaranteed to have heavy political activity in an election year.
That fall, I decided to enter the political discourse by joining the Badger Herald, an entirely student-run newspaper that has been in operation since 1969. Originally a conservative publication, the paper has moved towards the left in recent decades. I read the Summer Edition while visiting Madison and thought the writing and format to be very professional. I wanted to be a columnist, so I joined as an opinion writer.
Within the first few weeks, I quickly learned that working at a campus newspaper is an exceptionally rewarding experience. I think it would greatly benefit the conservative movement if more students joined campus newspapers.
Conservative columnists provide an opinion that few people living in a liberal bubble ever encounter. Most universities have overwhelmingly liberal academia, the largest political organizations are left-of-center, and the student bodies follow suit.
The campus newspaper offers the best opportunity to make the case for Conservatism to other students. Organizations like the College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom are crucial to spreading the conservative message internally, but liberals are unlikely to attend events hosted by groups they disagree with. In some cases, they’re more likely the shut them down.
Students will read the articles in their campus newspapers. These articles will commented on, talked about, and shared. A writer is very likely to get emails from some readers. This means it is imperative to write on a principled and informative basis. Persuading readers isn’t done by enraging them. What you write can hurt the conservative movement as much as help it. A good columnist should be coherent and thoughtful.
A columnist is able to develop his or her own opinions from the responses he or she receive— and you don’t necessarily have to enter the battlefield that is the comments section. Ever so often, you might find an article that is written in response to your own.
You should read these constructive arguments and respond to them. This also allows liberals to see where you’re coming from. If you provide your opinion constructively, you offer those on the left a window into understanding conservatism.
Don’t think that you’ll never get a student who initially disagrees with you to join your side. If you write effectively, there’s always a chance you can persuade others.
Don’t overthink your articles. In the newspaper business, most writers have deadlines. It’s natural to think too much about a topic. Sometimes less is more.
Articles that have too much information can be complicating and less compelling for readers. You don’t need to hammer in every single point that enters your brain. If you have problems with your article’s flow, then don’t hesitate to ask your editors. Even if they disagree with you, they’re always willing to help.
All too often, campus newspapers lack a conservative voice. That can change if more conservative students join the media. When students can read two sides of an argument, everyone benefits. Writing isn’t for everyone, and there will be extra work in addition to classes. However, if you like to write about politics and want to assist the conservative cause, then a newspaper is the perfect place for you.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.