Editorial: When the editorial page board speaks, what does it mean?

As the editorial page board, we know that The Brown Daily Herald gives us a platform that can allow our voice to resonate within the University community. And we are incredibly grateful for the chance to contribute to community conversation. But over the years, community members and Heralders alike have expressed to us that our role at The Herald and in the broader community has been insufficiently defined. In a sincere effort to remedy this lack of clarity and provide transparency about our role and our process, we write today as the Spring 2020 editorial page board to explain who we are, why we are and what we do.

We are currently a group of four writers and an editor who meet weekly to deliberate on topics we perceive as important to the Brown community and as clearly impacting student life. While every editorial reflects the majority opinion of this group, not every page board member necessarily signs every editorial. Our intent is to contribute our voice to community conversation and to our newspaper’s greater obligation to inform our readers about issues that impact them. While we may use editorials to criticize or affirm University policy or issues related to campus culture, in other cases, we may write editorials that prioritize increasing awareness of an issue over taking a stance.

Though the page board’s size and members may fluctuate from semester to semester, the page board remains committed to the same objective: Through deliberation, we seek to formulate opinions on community issues that are grounded not only in one person’s perspective or lived experience, but in shared discussion and consensus. Because they will be representing The Herald in this capacity, editorial page board members must have spent at least one year serving in some role at The Herald before they are eligible to join.

It is important to note that we do not speak for the majoritarian view of the newsroom. In keeping with the journalistic principle of maintaining a division between news and opinion, editorial page board members do not write for either news or opinions while serving on the page board. To the same end, the newsroom does not dictate the topics or direction of editorials; nor does The Herald’s Editorial Board — a group of students distinct from the editorial page board — that oversees the entire newspaper for the full calendar year.

We are aware that as a group of just five students, we cannot weigh in on every issue. We also know that we cannot make a definitive call on all issues due to the limits of our size and individual lived experiences. We intend for the perspectives we formulate to be worthy of our readers’ time and consideration, grounded in research, discussion and thorough consideration of the Brown community we are trying to serve. When we do choose to weigh in on an issue, we may not make a perfect judgement call every time, no matter how hard we try. In the interest of formulating editorials as carefully and thoughtfully as possible, the Spring 2020 editorial page board intends to publish fewer editorials per semester than have been published in semesters past. This change will allow us to reflect more on those topics we feel do warrant an editorial.

In our deliberative process, the page board keeps in mind the ways that we can exercise our voice to promote values and objectives we believe contribute to a positive University community. We write editorials bearing in mind interests that include promoting equity and inclusivity, holding powerful actors accountable and enhancing the student experience.

Like editorial page boards at national newspapers, when we take a stance on any issue, we remain mindful of the positions that The Herald’s past page boards have taken. The Herald established an editorial page board under its 118th Editorial Board, and since then, the editorial page board has been suspended, restructured and reinstated by different editorial boards. We strive to only contradict past page boards in the instances when we believe their original stance contradicted values in the vein of those mentioned previously, and when doing otherwise would perpetuate an egregious wrong. We know that sometimes, breaking from the past is the best thing we can do. As a result, our weekly debates are informed not only by the values mentioned, but also by the positions that members of previous page boards have taken on similar issues.

While not a comprehensive list of editorials past, the examples below contextualize various editorials written in recent years with the principles that guided their creation. We include these examples to show readers how these values have guided page board discussions past and present.

In encouraging community members to make use of the new SEAS reporting system, we hoped to promote a campus culture where everyone feels empowered to work toward ensuring a more equitable and inclusive world for their peers. When the University unveiled the Brown and the Innovation Economy Strategic Plan, we took the opportunity to call for more attention to local inequality — and the University’s responsibility to help combat it where possible. When we implored the Department of Computer Science to create clear, ethical guidelines for its industry partnerships, we advocated for the department to hold itself to a higher standard of accountability. When we reflected on the state of the Undergraduate Council of Students’ elections at Brown in 2018 and again in 2019, we emphasized how the student experience could be improved through the realization of a more representative and intentional process. And when we urged community members to consider the nuances and potential demerits of Railroad’s “proposal that the University adopt a ‘fair chance hiring’ policy,” we sought to provide our peers with informed context relating to critical community decisions.

Moving forward, we want to be intentional about considering community input as we discuss potential topics and stances. If you, our reader, or any other community member has suggestions for editorial topics that you feel deserve attention, we encourage you to share them with us by emailing editorialpageboard@browndailyherald.com. We appreciate your contributions to our dialogue.

We are aware of the weight that our voice carries on this campus — and we are grateful to our readers for this honor. Within the bounds of topics on which we feel we have adequate authority to speak, we intend to carry this responsibility wisely and determine topics and stances judiciously. Through this process, we hope to contribute positively to community dialogue and the Brown experience for everyone.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. This editorial was written by its editor, Krista Stapleford ’21, and members, Riley Pestorius ’21, Vicky Phan ’21 and Dylan Tian ’21.

Read more here: http://feeds.browndailyherald.com/~r/BrownDailyHerald/~3/9vC1jrPm-R8/
Copyright 2020