Why I’m leaving The Eagle
I’ve been writing for The Eagle for two years, longer than any other columnist. I applied at the beginning of my freshman year and was hired by Charlie Szold, now The Eagle’s editor in chief. Since that time, through the tenures of Graham Vyse and current Editorial Page Editor Joe Wenner, there has been a fairly laissez-faire policy toward columnists’ submissions. Save for grammatical errors and statements whose truth was dubious, columns were typically printed as is.
I think that this has been good policy. The job of a columnist is to say what’s on his mind, and editors should ideally act only as referees, correcting for obvious fouls. This has served my own tendencies well: I write because I enjoy writing. I love the world that I live in, and I enjoy contributing my ideas to it. My writing is not a gift to the community. That is: I am not an altruist. I am, however, a proud moral absolutist: if at any time I cease to enjoy writing for a publication, I’m not one to stay on board for the sake of “loyalty,” or for resume-padding.
The Eagle’s revised editorial policies are to include a ban on columnists commenting online, in addition to a stricter filter for columns that are “inflammatory” (that is: the only ones worth reading — and writing, for that matter). In other words: my columns are to be neutered, and I will no longer be allowed to engage with my readers. Because of these changes — which the editors ludicrously assert are long overdue — I am not willing to write for The Eagle any longer. If I cannot write what’s on my mind without the need to self-censor, why should I write? If I cannot engage my readers, what’s the point?
The Eagle’s new policies reflect a moral failing. We now have unequivocal proof that if a pressure group on campus makes enough noise, it will be granted a veto stamp over the rest of the campus’ behavior. Moral fortitude demands that bullies be resisted, not appeased. But what we have here is the latter. I cannot morally sanction this; therefore, I must leave.
My resignation has nothing to do with any of the following fantasies: a secret deal cut with the editors, internal politics, second thoughts about my previous column, buckling under media pressure, or an admission that I truly do not reflect “community standards.” If The Eagle’s policies were not changing, I would be attempting, as with every previous semester, to remain on board. But they are, and I’m not.
My advice to incoming columnists is this: know your audience. Nobody read anything I wrote until I started writing about campus issues. Nobody cares one whit about what a 20 year old in the Eagle thinks about the president’s nuclear policies. But there’s only one place where people can read about AU’s campus culture, and that’s The Eagle. If you want to rant about President Barack Obama, do it on a blog about national politics. That’s what I do: fans (and detractors) can continue to follow my writings at David Frum’s FrumForum.com and David Horowitz’ NewsRealBlog.com.
It’s fantastic to be engaged in national policies. But in The Eagle, for God’s sake, please write about something relevant to campus issues. And with that, I bid thee farewell!
Alex Knepper is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a classical liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.