What a wild ride it has been this semester. For those of you who only know me from words typed on the page, I’m Kristine. I’m currently a sophomore English Writing major here at West Chester University, and part of the first class of students to graduate high school in a pandemic and begin college through Zoom. I began writing for The Quad from my hometown, sending in articles online and growing more excited each time one of my op-eds became published. I earned the position of Op-ed Editor before I set foot on campus as a student.
Recently in The Quad’s Op-ed section, we have had some controversial pieces printed, with headlines that did not align with what I want the section to truly live up to. After we received some backlash in the form of a marked up article, I looked at red-marred words and poor titles that could have been edited with simple tweaks. Rather than focus on the printed past I cannot change, I am writing to inform the public that there is editing I wish I had implemented into certain pieces and fell short of attending to. As the Op-ed Editor for the university newspaper during the 2021–2022 academic year, I welcome and desire open conversations about the topics we print. Writers — students, faculty, staff — are invited to write about virtually any significant topic that reigns current and is backed by factual information. The section is welcome to all opinions and voices. We value free speech, as well as honesty, integrity and accuracy. The balance between these values often falls upon a thin line of journalistic choice and integrity that I myself am learning as I grow as a writer and editor.
In 2020, a senior editor at the New York Times resigned in response to backlash about an article by Tom Cotton that tackled the topic of U.S. military troops being sent to protests. The article did not meet The New York Times’ editorial standards, leading to James Bennet’s — the senior editor of the editorial page since 2016 — resigning immediately. Soon following, Pulitzer prize-winning Kathleen Kingsbury stepped in to take his role. This was not the first time The New York Times received backlash amid their politically-focused opinion pieces; it is the job of opinion editors and journalists to create conversation and spark important country-wide debates. In response to Bennet’s mistake, The Times made changes like renaming “Op-Eds” to “Guest Essays,” writing an official apology statement and expanding their fact-checking procedures. However minor our situation is at The Quad in comparison to high-scale controversy at The New York Times, there is still a lesson to be learned and actions to look up to. Quitting is not a practical option if it was even in my own interest.
When I was at a point in my personal life, being mentally clouded in my own opinions, I slipped. I let a temporary uncertainty in my own belief system unconsciously affect my job. You will have to forgive me of my faults, for I am forgiving myself. I have learned from recent experiences how to be vulnerable. In writing this, I aim to be honest and truthful in my mistakes and intentions. College is a pivotal point for most at times. The beginning of my experience on this job took some curveballs when being balanced with personal changes. After climbing the mountains of my personal life so to speak, I have refreshed my stance and outlook on life in a way that positively applies to this job. Without mistakes, we never truly learn. Although my peers support me in our team efforts and know that controversy comes with our decisions, I recognize the feeling I had in my gut and ignored as the pieces were being sent through. After closing a brief chapter of my own life that challenged me to grow as a person, I can firmly state that my values are clearer than they have been before. I do not stand with any form of racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, sexism, conspiracy, any form of hate speech or ill-informed lack of research.
In order to ease the editing process and communication with inquiring writers, The Quad will now have submission guidelines moving forward for the Op-ed section written into the website and embedded into writer’s call emails. Libel and slander are not welcome. I am aiming to prove myself as a journalist and section editor. In writing to you today, my goal for the next semester is to do better than before and keep moving forward.
This spring, The Quad welcomes thought-provoking articles with fresh perspective and progressive social impact. It is my hope to remain in this job for as long as my academic career lives here and as long as the job calls for me to do so. After only a few semesters, my love for this campus has grown. With that, I wish that all readers, writers, professors and staff enjoy winter break and see the newspaper with new eyes come next semester.
Kristine Kearns is a second-year English major with minors in Creative Writing and Sustainability. KK947319@wcupa.edu