As freshmen in such a politically-charged city, you’ll probably be reading a lot of news. From campus news to national headlines, we are inundated with daily information about what’s going on around us. But we don’t always know why we should care about these events if they don’t directly impact us.
The main purpose of news outlets is straightforward: They report on what’s happening in the world so the public can stay informed. But not as many people know the exact purpose of an editorial board. People consume what seems like endless news in a day with the speed of social media, so it’s easy to just read and move on. But editorial boards force readers to stop and think. They provide a human perspective on the news by telling them why they should care about what’s happening and how it can impact them.
The Hatchet’s Editorial Board doesn’t claim to be more knowledgeable than other students, nor does the Board expect everyone on campus to care or agree about our point of view on a topic. But we are here to start conversations about major events that happen on campus, like when we wrote that our next University president should be more student-oriented, and opine on topics we believe are going unnoticed, like how having only one full-time employee in the Title IX office can negatively impact sexual assault survivors. Student voices can evoke real change, and our editorial board has played a role in making a difference on campus. When the University decided to not rescind Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, we argued that this was the wrong call. After campus-wide discussion, Cosby’s degree was rescinded.
The Editorial Board is led by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Shwetha Srinivasan, and it is made up of editors from different sections across The Hatchet, including managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Anna Skillings. We come from varying geographic areas, from Mississippi to India, study different things across different schools and have political views across the spectrum. Lillianna Byington, The Hatchet’s editor in chief, sits in on our meetings to provide institutional knowledge and supervise the conversation but does not comment on the topic.
Our editorials are the product of extensive research. The opinions editor chooses the topic every week based on what she believes is most newsworthy and pertinent to students and can generate the most discussion. Before our weekly meetings, we do online research and reach out to experts to gain knowledge of the topic before we discuss it – like when we reached out to experts on sexual assault prevention for our editorial about the campus climate survey. Then, the opinions editors write the staff editorial and it is approved by everyone before publication. We operate completely independent from the newsroom. News editors do not take any part of discussing, writing or formulating the staff editorial, so they remain objective.
Of course, with such a different group of people, we don’t always agree. Each member of the Editorial Board brings in their own set of experiences that shape our discussion. So it isn’t surprising that we don’t always start off on the same page. But we try to reach a consensus, and once it runs in print, that consensus becomes The Hatchet’s official opinion. Although we usually end up on the same page, that’s not always true. And when we don’t, we have to acknowledge why we couldn’t come to a consensus.
We do our best to represent the student perspective on campus, but at the same time we are very aware of our limitations. We acknowledge that our editorial board is not fully representative of the student body, nor would that ever be possible. But we do our best to address a topic from different perspectives and talk to more people to provide an informed opinion. When we discussed the divestment referendum, we were well-aware that we did not have a Palestinian voice on our editorial board. But we approached the topic from all sides of the issue, by looking at different views and how other schools handled the topic, to give a balanced and fair opinion.
Students won’t always agree with us, and that’s more than welcome. We don’t aim to impose our opinions, nor do we believe that our views are always the right ones. Rather we want to be facilitating conversation on campus regarding topics we find important, and that we think matter to students. But by all means, disagree. It’s called an opinion for a reason. We encourage students who oppose our views or have feedback for us to write and submit letters to the editor and op-eds. From incoming freshmen to alumni, everyone is welcome to weigh in. We want to hear your opinions and try to understand parts of an issue we may not have understood, or even considered, in our talks.
Differing opinions engage students and foster discussion, and that’s exactly what we hope to do through our staff editorials. To the Class of 2021, we look forward to having you on campus and hearing what you have to say. Here’s to another year of working to evoke positive change at GW.
The Editorial Board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Shwetha Srinivasan, based on discussions with managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Anna Skillings.