When new writers approach us with a desire to join The Post’s opinion section, one of the key things we tell them is that they can write about pretty much anything as long as they are not saying anything bigoted.
Technically speaking, to do that would be stating an opinion. However, we recognize that it is our duty to make sure everyone in the Ohio University and Athens community feels respected by The Post. Therefore, we as editors do not allow bigoted language to be published.
There is a lot to unlearn when it comes to bigoted language because a lot of it is very deeply rooted in our society. We prioritize having conversations regarding concerning language we come across while editing. It can be as simple as rewording a sentence and discussing why the original wording needs to be changed or as complicated as holding onto a column until it can be thoroughly discussed and edited. Regardless, it is necessary and not something we take lightly.
While we nor the government can’t ban speech that merely offends, language considered to be incitement, fighting words and threats are prohibited. It goes without saying that there is no scenario in which fighting words and/or threats would be published by The Post as a whole, but it is our belief that bigoted language can very easily be interpreted as incitement, which can lead to fighting words and threats. Bigotry doesn’t just appear overnight. Letting it fester at the incitement level implies that there is room for boundaries to be pushed and fighting words to be spewed, leaving further space for threats to start flying.
One of the greatest responsibilities of journalists is to uplift the voices of the unheard. As a columnist, you walk a fine line between sharing your opinions about controversial topics in a nuanced way while running the risk of overstepping into areas that are simply not your place to comment. Sure, you have the right to publish whatever you want, but even then columns can come off as tasteless, ignorant or both.
One such article came from a columnist for The New Political titled, “J.K. Rowling isn’t worth your outrage.” While it was an opinion piece and thus does not represent the views of the publication itself, it left a sour taste in countless mouths around Athens.
In this context, it does not matter that J.K. Rowling was a single mother on welfare. It does not matter that she has donated millions to charity, as this is irrelevant in the context of the article. Saying transgender people should not be upset for reasons completely unrelated to Rowling’s transphobia does not make sense.
The article also misrepresents Rowling’s history of transphobic remarks. For years, she has entertained harmful stereotypes surrounding transgender women while hiding behind claims of having trans friends and portraying herself as a victim of “woke” culture in essays easily found on her website.
In Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he famously wrote, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The assertion that the happenings of the U.K. have no effect on the rest of the world is not only inaccurate but dangerous in this context.
As a journalist, it is imperative to fully understand the scope of what you are writing prior to a piece’s publication and remember that beyond all else, your job is to speak on behalf of the people, not propel the words of bigoted elites.
Tate Raub is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Tate know by tweeting her @tatertot1310.
Megan Diehl is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note the views expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Megan? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Opinion Editor