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ISSUE 120 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 11/3/2006

Paper fails to balance

By Lauren Ciechanowski
Staff Writer

Friday, November 3, 2006

In the final issue of the Counterweight last spring, executive editor Chase Donaldson ‘'07 asked readers why the publication has not received more conservative support on campus. One of my many internal responses to this query was that conservative students on campus would be no more willing to identify themselves with such an extremist point of view than all liberals would believe that Michael Moore represents their political beliefs.

While the content and design of the Counterweight succeed in provoking emotional response from readers, the publication also inhibits productive bipartisan dialogue – something that I would agree is severely lacking on campus. I would like to emphasize heavily my belief that the Counterweight has potential to be an excellent source of conservative dialogue on campus, but that its current structure and content trivialize the publication’s goals.

It is no secret that the St. Olaf community is largely liberal-friendly, and indeed welcomes and encourages demographic minorities to attend, work and teach here. However, no one voice is automatically represented on campus, but instead channeled through student organizations or other means. During any given week, The Manitou Messenger is likely to publish roughly one politically liberal article in the Opinions section not because of publication bias, but often due to lack of submissions.

The Counterweight, in citing liberal bias on campus, fails to distinguish between belonging to a demographic – not only on campus, but also on a global scale – and receiving benefits or participating in behavior that results from participating in organizations that represent these demographics.

While the front and back page of the Counterweight bear no headings, the middle two pages carry the heading “News.” Apparently the top news items this past issue were that Donaldson believes “many women and minorities expect preferential treatment in just about every aspect of life;” staff writer Eric Wright has no problems mocking the “severely oppressed GLBT individuals” and ethnic minorities, and in fact has no idea that “All The Pretty Horses” were not the musical guests for the Coming Out week concert. Editorials should be labeled as such, and news stories need to be approached with tact, accuracy and integrity.

The informational sidebar in the Counterweight states that they are “placing an emphasis on encouraging intelligent and respectful dialogue,” yet the solicitation for letters to the editor features a red-faced, angry man. The Campus Climate Survey article, too, references the “five minutes of hate” that usually follows an issue of the Counterweight. What response are they trying to cultivate? The publication now is certainly an attention-getter, but not an intelligent dialogue-maker, and it seems the Counterweight is satisfied with that.

Are we, as the St. Olaf community, satisfied with that? The Counterweight’s provoking (not provocative) nature perpetuates a stereotype that many liberal readers may hold about conservatives. Given that the Counterweight believes conservatives are a political (if not cultural) minority on campus, perpetuating this stereotype is a complete disservice to liberals, conservatives and others alike.

Referring mockingly to multicultural groups’ “weekly dozen or so events” on campus, the Counterweight effectively trivializes the hard work fundraising for, planning, and executing such productions. Asia Weeks do not exist because we have a liberal administration, nor because we have Asian students, but because we have students dedicated to celebrating a cultural heritage and teaching others about it. Most Counterweight writers and editors are very active in student organizations on campus, and I would trust they are aware of the time-consuming nature of event planning.

What infuriates me and, I will presume, many other Counterweight readers, is not solely its content, but the publication’s willingness to disregard its own potential. Instead of a paper that speaks for an under-represented campus demographic, facilitates dialogue and engages in debate regarding salient current events, the Counterweight reverts to cheap shots and emotionally charged editorials that, not surprisingly, elicit a similar response.

Staff Writer Lauren Ciechanowski is a senior from Oak Park, Ill. She majors in sociology/anthropology and in political science.

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