Controversial issues can benefit college journalism

Last month, The Daily Princetonian ran a column written by first-year Iulia Neagu arguing that sex after an evening of drinking doesn’t mean a girl was raped, provided she decided willingly to consume alcohol. The opinion piece has garnered some national attention and has remained the most-viewed Princetonian piece for days, accumulating over 300 comments.

However, we aren’t going to enter the debate as to whether or not the piece is sexist or embark upon an explanation to define sexual consent. Instead, we are going to briefly reflect on the position a university newspaper should take in publishing a knowingly controversial op-ed. Specifically, we believe that controversy can benefit a university community by creating discussion and productive debate about important, relevant issues.

College journalism is, in many ways, hyper-local. The audience of The Tartan is almost entirely composed of the Carnegie Mellon community, a group of about 15,000 people that it aims to support and report to. But even in our small community (by publishing standards), the diversity of opinions is huge.

We believe it is our responsibility to attempt to canvass and understand the needs of people across the university, realizing that many individuals hold views that may not be accepted by the community. The difficulty lies in helping to present these opinions in a way where they will not be scorned, but published thoughtfully as a beginning of a larger discussion.

The good that has come out of this is reflected in the current “Most Viewed” list on the Princetonian’s website. While Neagu’s piece maintains a solid first place, two of the other top five articles are well-reasoned responses. The Princetonian has created an environment for public debate, an elusive thing that is often difficult to cultivate, even on a college campus.