If you open a print copy of The Hatchet to page 5, you’ll find the opinions section – filled with different perspectives and viewpoints on the issues facing GW. As a new semester is underway, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a few things Hatchet readers and the GW community should know about what the opinions section does, who writes for it and how to consume opinion journalism.
The section consists of dozens of students from a broad range of backgrounds, majors, places of origin and points of view. Our writers and columnists – writers who have written at least five opinion pieces – pitch ideas based on their personal experiences, passions, interests and areas of study. The opinions section has covered topics ranging from GW’s COVID-19 policies to campus housing to the fight for racial justice. Each piece, once approved by the opinions editors and the editor-in-chief, undergoes a rigorous editing process to ensure the argument is clear and coherent.
Most of the pieces the section publishes relate directly to events acutely unfolding at GW. The University has an activist student body, and opinions voiced through the section often line up with the latest advocacy efforts the GW community is undertaking. For example, a flurry of columns and op-eds joined the chorus calling on GW to divest from fossil fuels, which the University ultimately did last summer. Writers and columnists have weighed in on other hot-button topics, like University President Thomas LeBlanc’s beleaguered tenure and the 2020 general election.
Other pieces delve into issues that are less immediate but no less important, like legacy admission policies and filling seats in Foggy Bottom’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission. We also publish personal essays penned by our writers and columnists about their unique life experiences, like dealing with mental illness and navigating a primarily white campus as a person of color.
In addition to running pieces written by our writers and columnists, the opinions section also publishes op-eds written by members of the GW community, and a weekly staff editorial written by myself and contributing opinions editor Shreeya Aranake based on discussions with the paper’s editorial board.
The opinions section is entirely editorially independent of the news section. Writers and columnists for the opinions section cannot write news articles, and reporters cannot write opinions pieces, as is the standard among most professional newsrooms. The goal of news reporting is to inform readers while limiting the amount of bias influencing the content. On the other hand, opinion journalism is subjective. That is its purpose and its value – readers can benefit from the expertise, perspectives and lived experience of those who write for the opinions section. It is not about laying out some irrefutable truth. It is about crafting experiences and evidence into cogent arguments that go beyond 280 characters.
Any reader of the opinions section is also likely to stumble across perspectives and arguments that they disagree with – and that’s the point. No opinions piece is going to confirm all of any one person’s priors and preconceptions. Instead, what readers should do is factor the piece’s arguments into their own thoughts on an issue. Maybe the article supports and confirms what you already thought. Maybe it prompts you to think about a topic in a new way. Or maybe you disagree with the piece so vehemently that it gives you even more clarity about your stance on the issue at hand. In any event, the whole point is to present a new perspective or angle on an issue that matters.
You don’t have to agree with every piece you read. But I do hope you look to the opinions section for perspectives that might make you look at a topic differently or teach you something new. Whether you’re a student, faculty member, administrator or member of the broader GW community, our writers have moving experiences and incisive opinions that are worth reading.
Andrew Sugrue, a senior majoring in political communication and political science, is the opinions editor.