While I read about this earlier, the Times picked it up today as the Middlebury College newspaper editor “stood pat” on her decision to publish a doctored picture comparing former NYC-mayor Giuliani and Adolf Hitler.
This, of course, reminded me greatly of our very own UHS Devil’s Advocate incident in publishing “What’s Hot: Asian Teachers at UHS.” In fact, I wrote about our version, which happened far before Middlebury’s scandal, in applying to the school. Here’s what I wrote in response to their prompt, “Describe an experience in which your values were tested. How have you grown as a result?”
Posters scattered throughout the school read, “Are Asian Teachers Hot? Come Discuss at the Moving on Racial Equality Meeting at Lunch.” Referencing a comment published in the school newspaper The Devil’s Advocate, the posters instantly sparked debate. My economics teacher fired off a searing letter criticizing the paper’s entertainment-oriented back page for publishing the comment: “What’s Hot?: Asian Teachers at UHS.” The criticism hit me hard because, ultimately, I was the one responsible for the comment no matter what the intention of the writer. I was the last person to see the paper before printing. I was an editor-in-chief. It did not matter if I did not actually write it; I published it.
Granted this was no CBS/Dan Rather or New York Times reporting scandal, it was, however, a real test for me. I essentially had two options: apologize on behalf of the paper or stick to my guns with free speech. Being a journalist, I claim free speech as the most important right. It provides the foundation for making our leaders accountable, and it makes people feel safe enough to voice their opinions. Yet, apologizing would calm the storm of complaints in a school easily caught up in drama.
This incident could have been a perfect opportunity to expound on not taking the easy route of apologizing and to talk in a clichéd fashion over how I stuck to my values in a difficult situation. However, I did not stick to my values; I took the easy route. The newspaper issued a formal apology in print. I gave in to my co-editor-in-chief after a fight where I insisted on the fundamental value of free speech.
I guess I did not insist enough because now I regret giving in on an issue that is important to me. This experience serves to remind me that I must be persistent in my beliefs. It is too easy to let life go by unchecked, unquestioned. Just as I was tested in this situation, so too must we test ourselves and our values consistently.
Granted this was a college essay (note the overusage of dramatics to sound important and hyped sense of language even if I dropped a sentence of meta half way through), I can now see quite the correlation. One can only wonder if I got in, in whole or in part,by this happenstance.