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Column: Thoughtful dialogue requires participation from all sides

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OU Daily Newsroom

The OU Daily newsroom during production Jan. 16.

Another day, another one-star Facebook review.

Another meticulously crafted piece, another tweet simultaneously advocating for free speech and condemning our writers.

Another column, another anonymous comment harassing my friends and coworkers for placing themselves in a vulnerable position by opening their opinions — their core values and deepest held beliefs — to the scrutiny of the Internet.

It's exhausting at times, and with the advent of digitally-focused journalism, it's abundantly clear that a significant faction of angry readers seems to forget — or just not care — that there's a young, earnest 18 to 22-year-old human being on the other end of their insults.

That said, we're not as coddled as half of our Facebook "fans" seem to think. We can dish it as well as we can take it, and among ourselves, we do. We're digitally fluent, group-chatting, sarcasm-wielding "millennials," and we choose to laugh off the poorly-worded and grammatically atrocious spite hurled at us on a daily basis.

But it's getting a little repetitive. In the midst of the blatantly rude and angry comments from folks who probably will never understand where we're coming from, there's a well-meaning but inaccurate message that catches my eye over and over: "The Daily is too liberal! You only push one agenda!"

Believe it or not, I don't sit down, rub my hands together and gleefully hit "delete" on every right-leaning column that lands in my inbox. In fact, The Daily's opinion email is deader than my love life, which was on its last legs my sophomore year of college. I get our opinion content from two places: our staff columnists and the community. From what I've seen so far, the latter has been reluctant to engage — unless you count the guy who periodically sends us moderately creepy hand-written faxes from a car dealership in Oklahoma City. I don't, yet, but I might have to start reevaluating my options if my email keeps serenading me with cricket chirps every time I open it.

I'll be clear: To arrive at my political stance, you should start at left, turn left and then keep going left. But contrary to what anonymous online commenters would have you believe, I didn't apply for this job to exercise a "fascist" takeover of exclusively bleeding-heart screeds. I wanted it because I believe in the power of opinion journalism. I believe in the power of the op-ed column to constantly challenge, elucidate and elevate the conversation. I believe in its deft balance between fact and the often gut-wrenching reality of human emotion. I believe that objectivity doesn't always mean neutrality, and opinion writing gives us the chance to explore that divide. I believe that expressing our viewpoints can change how others see the world, but it can also change ourselves.

When I ask myself why I do what I do, every time, it comes back to these words I heard months ago from a speech author Viet Thanh Nguyen gave at the Wisconsin Book Festival: "I became a writer and a scholar because I believe in justice ... and talking about stories ... can be acts of justice, because, you know, one of the ways by which we commit injustices anywhere — this country and elsewhere — is by erasing people from stories."

So don't let your own story be erased by misplaced rage. Write. Tell me what you think. My inbox and I are waiting.


The Daily welcomes letters to the editor and guest columns from the OU community. To submit a letter or column, email dailyopinion@ou.edu.

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