Grounding Student Discourse

In the wake of widespread misinformation and the mainstream media’s shortcomings in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, the Editorial Board affirms The Student’s commitment to facilitate rigorous, well-informed dialogue as a journalistic publication on and for campus.

To say that there is a crisis in journalism right now would not be an exaggeration. Thousands of articles about Hamas’ attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli military assault on Gaza are supplying contradictory accounts of what is happening in the region, which disagree on facts from numbers of civilian casualties, whether or not atrocities actually occurred, to which party launched missile strikes.

In this moment of confusion, grief, and ongoing violence, the Editorial Board acknowledges that it is imperative that journalists report and comment on this issue, which is so personal for people worldwide as well as within our community. At the same time, we did not feel it would be responsible to issue a collective editorial opinion on these atrocities. For one, it would require diluting the many voices that make up our board. In such a vitriolic moment, it could also compromise our status as a venue for free debate.

Spaces like these are very few, especially when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict. This week, we — The Student’s Editorial Board — emphasize our hope that our paper can become such a space for the Amherst community, both despite and because of this dearth. We are fully committed to amplifying student experiences, protecting student speech, maintaining our journalistic value of truth, and fostering a sense of safety around this conversation.

As a newspaper, our role is to facilitate rigorous discourse on important issues. We are currently seeing horrific suppressions of student speech across college campuses. We condemn this suppression wholeheartedly and affirm that our very existence as a newspaper rests upon protecting the free speech of students, especially against administrative and community backlash. As this conflict continues to unfold, we will work to forcefully protect the rights of the contributors who publish in our pages.

We believe it is important to enable principled and open dialogue on campus regarding this conflict, and hope to center student perspectives, op-eds, and reflections. We acknowledge that the current political and social climate discourages students from speaking publicly on these polarizing topics, and that the traditional mainstream media, both Western and non-Western, has been failing to report accurately. At the same time, we are wary of the use of social media and Fizz as spaces to hold these conversations. Firstly, the nature of both of these platforms leads to the sharing of gut reactions and adversarial speech that often devolves into racist, Islamophobic, and antisemitic rhetoric. Additionally, social media has only exacerbated the spread of misinformation and disinformation in our cultural zeitgeist, proliferating new ammunition for hate speech.

The Student aims to reflect our community back onto itself to bring together perspectives that otherwise might not be able to exist in conversation with each other. We hope we can work with our contributors to center students’ personal emotions, worries, and griefs in particular, as that is how we move towards collective liberation and celebration of humanity as a community.

In addition to defending the integrity of our writers, we must attend to our media consumption practices.  We encourage the use of journalistic fact-checkers and first-person “on the ground” accounts to verify the facts we read, and remember that even the news, supposedly objective, can and does have political motives. As for ourselves, we affirm our responsibility to verify the words we publish to the best of our ability amid this scourge of misinformation, and ask for the community’s grace as we will, inevitably, make mistakes.

In a sense, our goal is what it has always been: to enable the voices of the Amherst community to be heard. But this moment calls for acute attention to how we can best accomplish this. We hope the community will join the conversation about whether and how we can provide such a platform as the conflict continues to unfold.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 12; dissenting: 2; abstaining: 0).