By: Kelsey Brown and Jireh Deng
When I applied for the position of opinions editor for the Daily Forty-Niner summer of 2020 only a week before my first semester at Long Beach State started, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I wanted to be a part of the editorial staff for the school’s paper, similarly to my position at my community college’s paper.
In the first week I learned of the controversial past of the paper. There were complaints of the paper not being diverse and not adequately covering issues affecting people of color. I was disoriented stepping into a position of power at a newspaper that was still undergoing scrutiny.
All I knew is that my job, alongside my assistant, who has been an invaluable asset throughout my career at CSULB, was to cultivate an environment in the opinions section for all voices to be heard.
Both my assistant editor, Jireh Deng, and I were brand new to the Daily Forty-Niner at the start of the fall semester. Jireh, being connected and courageous as always, was able to voice many of the issues of the community to our paper’s editorial staff. She has had no problem calling people out, holding people accountable, and demanding more from our staff. Our editor-in-chief, Madalyn Amato, was more than receptive to our concerns of our paper not being inclusive or educated on issues affecting people of color enough, and in turn she responded by creating weekly readings for our editorial staff to engage and converse about.
I was hesitant after the first week I joined the publication due to the issues that had surfaced. But I also knew that having two people of color running the opinions section was an opportunity to expand our section to serve the community in a more meaningful way than had been done before. And we have.
I am immensely proud of the opinion section—the past semester we have allowed stories from all different types of people to be shared through our newspaper. We’ve had stories about Beirut, diversity in STEM, stories about coming out, about hate speech on Tik Tok and about discrimination in higher education. We’ve worked hard to allow the opinion section to be a platform for all members of the community to be heard.
Recently, the paper has come under heat because of a letter submitted to our editor-in-chief in support of Trump. The article was full of opinions, many of those not backed by any facts, and because of that, I’m disappointed in it running. To claim that the Black Lives Matter movement was a violent movement when the majority of the protests were peaceful, and to claim that BLM hates America were baseless claims that should’ve been corrected.
Due to a miscommunication, I was unaware of the article posting and had no part in the editing process. I do want to reassure people that Jireh and I normally have a thorough process of fact checking and asking our writer’s to source their information. I am wholeheartedly sorry that the letter went online before we were able to correct the errors in it. But I think it is important to address while we are getting so many angry messages, that the entire point of our student-run publication is to be an independent, unbiased outlet for students and community members.
Discussions reframing the idea of neutrality are happening all over the country in many newsrooms, including ours. We cannot escape the history of journalism in our country that has defined neutrality or bias centered around a heteronormative, cisgendered, male and white gaze.
However, if we had chosen not to run the pro-Trump letter, we are taking a side. It is not our duty as journalists to discriminate between what deserves press and what does not. It is our duty to serve the community, share perspectives and attempt neutrality. I understand that this is upsetting for many people. But one of the greatest parts of America is our right to free speech, and limiting anyone’s ability to free speech is detrimental to the foundation of our country.
The speech in the letter is hurtful to many in our community who have experienced harm under four years of a tumultuous presidency. We acknowledge that hurt, yet we caution ourselves from taking on the role of a censor against unpopular views in the student body. We face a unique struggle as student journalists of being full time students while covering your 24-hour newscycle. There are critics who attack the media for being too left or too right, and at the end of the day we are still learning and in a process of growth here at the paper.
There have been times in my editing career when I come across a story whose content makes me cringe and that I fundamentally disagree with. But it is not my job to police the perspectives of students, but rather to edit and share them.
I kindly remind everyone to remember the importance of freedom of speech, even when the speech offends you. By posting any article we are not siding with or condemning anyone. We are simply an outlet for student’s voices to be heard. If you are unsatisfied with one’s opinion, we’d love to share yours in our section as well. As mentioned earlier, this is a platform for all student voices to be heard.
As this spring semester continues, I hope that if you feel strongly about any matter that you share your opinion to allow your perspective to be heard as well. Jireh and I will continue to work tirelessly to expand and evolve the opinions section to being a more inclusive and reflective embodiment of Long Beach’s students. Thank you for your continued support.
To submit your opinions to the Daily Forty-Niner, email the opinions desk at [email protected]