Last Wednesday afternoon, El Congreso decided to hold a town meeting to discuss the offensive nature of the Daily Nexus toward campus diversity. I walked into the theater expecting an honest dialogue. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the meeting to degenerate into an emotional blame fest. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why.
Holding the event in the Multicultural Center Theater might have seemed symbolic, but I believe a better venue could have been chosen. Thousands of students plus any other residents in the area would potentially have attended a true town meeting had it been held in either I.V. Theater or Embarcadero Hall. Instead, only a few dozen people showed up. Half of them were from the Nexus staff and they hadn’t received any formal invitation to the event. Among the remaining dozens of attendees, only the same six or so individuals spoke out. How can I take the meeting seriously if there weren’t enough people to fill the relatively small MCC Theater?
As for the speakers themselves, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. As more time passed, the meeting became less of an opportunity to offer constructive criticism as a chance for some to blame the Nexus for their personal failures and offended morals.
One individual brought up how humiliating it felt to see a Conquest advertisement after spending thousands of hours fighting that company. To me, this is tantamount to a religious right activist complaining about an advertisement for a UCSB lecture on evolution. I’m sure it doesn’t make them feel good either, but what gives them the right to prevent other people from being exposed to it? A newspaper running an advertisement does not negate a group’s entire cause. Any individual that feels that way should reconsider being an activist. There are far worse obstacles to a cause than a passive advertisement, especially one regarding their activities.
Another person felt she was wronged because her response to an offending column did not run. She pointed out two days later that a similar response ran, but from a white student. Her letter didn’t get printed so she blames it on racism. First of all, how did she know the writer was white? Second, why does it matter? Third, if another writer feels the exact same way, shouldn’t she be glad that other people agree with her viewpoint? Instead, her argument became a matter of pride.
Eventually complaints also boiled down to matters concerning the Weatherhuman’s edgy sense of humor, opinion articles and advertisements. Again, these are valid complaints, but targeting the editorial staff for these offenses is misguided. How hard is it to understand that there is a separation between news coverage, opinion articles and advertisements? The editorial staff abstains from censoring opinions in order to ensure everyone’s right to free speech and maintain an open forum. A newspaper cannot have journalistic integrity if it segregates or censors such material. It would further be impossible to determine the moral compass that guides these decisions. Each individual is offended by a different subject matter and may not represent the viewpoint of the rest of the community.
The only nugget of constructive criticism that could be gleaned from the event was the complaint that the Nexus should cover more cultural events around campus as opposed to say, Pike Fraternity’s Fight Night. That was an honest critique that certainly carries merit and can be worked on by the staff.
I commend El Congreso for setting up the dialogue, but it still left much to be desired. It wasn’t the organizer’s fault that the meeting was close to a complete waste of time. The poor turnout and even poorer vocal representation did not resolve any issues. The meeting had the best of intentions, but then again, when have the best intentions gotten anything done? Hopefully in the future, more productive dialogues can exist between the newspaper and the readers.