First Amendment first

Several minority organizations on Monday accused The Badger Herald of racism for accepting a paid national advertisement from David Horowitz, a noted conservative author.

The criticism regarding the advertisement is not unique to our campus — The Daily Californian at the University of California-Berkley and other college newspapers around the country have said they regret printing the advertisement.

At The Badger Herald, we only regret that the editors of The Daily Californian allowed themselves to give in to pressure in a manner that unfortunately violated their professional integrity and journalistic duty to protect speech with which they may disagree.

The knee-jerk response by the Californian is frighteningly indicative of the growing tendency of college newspapers to allow the opinions they publish to be stomped out for fear of being called names.

As the editors of the Californian did, we too could apologize for the ad, call its author racist and hope that our reputation is not marred in the aftermath. But we believe that action would be taking the easy way out and would unnecessarily surrender our and others’ First Amendment rights.

We will not apologize for the publication of the advertisement, last month’s controversial cartoon that belittled Ku Klux Klan members or any other controversial subject matter that would require us to compromise someone’s First Amendment rights.

As fellow members of the UW community, we fully and sincerely respect the opinions of other students and the manner in which they express them. While we will staunchly defend our own First Amendment rights, we also respect the rights of individuals and groups to peacefully protest against the ideas represented in our newspaper or any other medium.

Leading the current charge against the Herald is Multicultural Students Coalition chair Tshaka Barrows. Last December, the Herald recognized Barrows for this work as an advocate of diversity. The Herald also broke a story last spring exposing a former ASM member for a racist e-mail he wrote to Barrows. While Barrows certainly has a responsibility to the students he represents, he should also remember the Herald’s longstanding and ongoing efforts to stand up for the interests of students of color through open and uncensored discourse.

Since its beginning as an independent newspaper in the tumultuous ’60s, the Herald has never been afraid to publish an unpopular idea. We pride ourselves for thinking independently; the ideas expressed on these pages are not always politically correct. Our mission is to provide a forum for all ideas, even those as unpopular and controversial as Horowitz’s.

This newspaper continually strives to represent and respect all students’ viewpoints across a racial and ideological continuum. We understand and lament the fact that because of our commitment to free speech, we run the risk of occasionally offending readers. It is not our goal. But while we don’t want to offend for the sake of offense, we refuse to censor unpopular ideas simply because someone may be offended.

Supporting one’s own right to free speech is easy. Protecting others’ right to speech is the true test or any newspaper.


This article was published Mar 6, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Mar 6, 2001 at 12:00 am


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