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ISSUE 119 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/24/2006

The Counterweight responds: Conservative paper seeks to provide balance

By Corrine Thomas
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 24, 2006

It’s been called a “Nazi newspaper.” It’s been spit on. Yet, according to editor Chase Donaldson ‘07, about 700 copies still fly off campus newsstands after every publication. It’s The Counterweight – St. Olaf’s latest privately run student newspaper.

While ruffling many liberal feathers around campus, The Counterweight has become a catalyst for dialogue, debate and flat-out fury. To interest (and tick off) so many Oles is no easy task, so we decided to finally get out there and ask, “Just who are these guys?”

As it turns out, “these guys” are editor Chase Donaldson and about eight other writers on campus who meet regularly to produce the publication.Originally headed by Matt Frauenshuh ‘05 and Bryn Knatturud ’06, The Counterweight

arrived on campus for the first time last year with the mission of providing “a balance in the media at St. Olaf College.”

“With the [Manitou] Messenger, every week it’s the same two or three writers writing about the same, usually, anti-Bush, things,” said Donaldson, “Our goals are mainly to provide a cohesive argument for some of the issues that are confronting us today, and also give parents, alumni and students sort of a different take or perspective.”

Although accused of being harshly Republican, The Counterweight maintains that it is a non-partisan publication simply looking to present a more conservative perspective to a campus that, in the opinion of Donaldson, “leans a little too far left.”

With recent articles such as “The Damaging Effects of Affirmative Action,” The Counterweight takes a bold stance on what it sees as shortcomings of the affirmative action program. The publication cites several credible sources to defend an article that states, “because of [Ivy league schools] attraction of ‘best of the best,’ state schools usually get left with the rest of the minority students…”

While articles like these dance dangerously on the line of being blatantly one-sided, Donaldson reasserted the unapologetic attitudes held by The Counterpoint.

“ I can understand that people do not see in-depth examinations of both sides, but we are not writing thesis papers,” says Donaldson “It’s a newspaper and we have to include things like excessive facts and excessive sources just so people can’t criticize us. We’re trying to present a persuasive argument for our side and we just don’t have time to address everything. We figure that most people understand the other side of the argument anyway, and we just try to give them a couple of other things to think about so they can put all their knowledge together and figure out their own take on the situation.”

In addition to its commentary on the affirmative action program, The Counterweight also published an article on ‘The Vagina Monologues.’ In the article, Donaldson inquires on the extent to which the production upholds “Jesus’ teachings.” This particular Christian reference pulled us to ask just how much weight Christian doctrine is given in The Counterweight’s articles.

Donaldson said that despite differing views of the authors and staff, “the non-offensive Christian aspect is very important.”

“I think especially on this campus, you don’t have as many of your party conservatives, but instead people who are looking at things from a more Christian perspective,” Donaldson said, “In this environment, in order to cater to that audience, I think it is effective to bring the Christian argument to life.”

In recent global news, a religiously insensitive publication of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish periodical has the Muslim community tearing up the headlines, literally and figuratively.

As a campus newspaper that has some Christian influence as well as an unapologetic tone, we weighed in on The Counterweight’s view on this particular issue; one that addresses not only religious divides but the very essence of free speech.

“We actually did consider reprinting the cartoons,” said Donaldson, “I talked to a lot of the other writers about how they would feel about this and we came to the conclusion that it simply wouldn’t do any good. Free speech for the sake of free speech does not do any good. It would have probably discredited us. We don’t want to be looked at as an extreme group…but as somebody who is out there presenting reasoned arguments.”

And these “reasoned arguments” will keep coming if all goes to plan. Future goals for The Counterpoint include an expansion of staff, Donaldson seeks to participate in a “paper-exchange” with other conservative leaders from Carleton, Gustavus and St. Thomas.

One can plan and expand, but in the end of the day the question really is: Can St. Olaf students turn to The Counterweight for a fair and balanced examination of current issues?

Donaldson said no: “We don’t give a balanced perspective. We give our perspective on the issues. I would say it’s a supplement to the beliefs that people already have.”

So The Counterweight will continue to “supplement,” and by the looks of things, expect no apologies

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