Herald must be an open forum

Free speech is a wonderful thing.

It allows us to protest impending war in Iraq, suggest the governor resign and question authority at any level.

It gives us the freedom to disagree.

Anyone has the right to say what they want, when they want, however they want – within the limits of libel and good taste, as long as others’ rights aren’t trampled.

With that in mind, the Herald wants to clear up a few misconceptions based on Tuesday’s opinion page.

Zak Cummins, a junior print journalism major from Fredonia, wrote a commentary expressing his opinion of Martin Luther King Jr. It was an opinion that many found unsettling or downright disgusting.

Cummins is not a Herald staff member nor is he a regular Herald columnist, such as Hollan Holm or Kyle Hightower. Like any piece labeled “commentary,” the opinions expressed are the writer’s and only his. A commentary in no way expresses the feelings of the Herald, the writer’s academic department or hometown.

The Herald’s opinions are labeled “editorials.” A sentence at the end reiterates that the opinion expressed represents the Herald editorial board’s opinion.

Some have suggested the Herald should not publish opinions we don’t agree with. Think about it. Do you really want me to decide which point of view will be published in the Herald this semester?

That’s neither the role of a free press nor is it a healthy attitude on a university campus that should be fostering critical thinking and lively discussion.

We want the Herald’s opinion page to be a forum for discussion. We want readers to share their feelings on issues they find important. As with letters, we do have the right to edit or not publish any submission.

A commentary is simply a longer version of a letter to the editor, with the writer’s picture. Letters to the editor this semester have ranged in topics from student parking to housing to the war in Iraq. Many of those letters offer opposing viewpoints and have started discussion among Herald readers.

We will continue to run letters and commentaries that showcase both popular and unpopular sentiments. We’d rather you evaluate the opinions instead of us choosing which side you’ll hear.

But there’s a distinction between something that is a blatant lie and someone’s opinion. The Herald will not run anything that we can prove to be false.

Anyone can submit a commentary for publication, and we encourage students, faculty, staff and alumni to do so.

We don’t want any confusion. For that reason, the Herald has adopted a new policy. At the end of each commentary, a line will be added explaining that the views expressed in the piece are those of the writer alone.

We’re glad that you’re reading our paper, and we encourage you to keep writing in. It’s your right.

And as long as there is free speech, we’ll be here to listen.

-Erica Walsh, editor-in-chief