Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, February 25, 2018

New student-run political commentary site hopes to promote ideological diversity

The American Agora is working to expand campus brand

New student-run political commentary site hopes to promote ideological diversity

The American Agora was founded in February 2017 and seeks to promote "ideological diversity." 

During their freshman year, current sophomores Bobby Zitzmann and Avery James had the idea to start a campus publication focused on political and ideological diversity. Now, that idea has become a reality with the creation of The American Agora.

They’ve designed The American Agora to be the University’s dedicated political commentary site, Zitzmann, the organization’s editor-in-chief, said. The website publishes about two to three opinion pieces per week as well as podcasts and debates between writers.

“Our mission is to get ideological diversity with our writers,” Zitzmann said. “You get a lot of ideological homogeneity [with other publications], but we explicitly look for diversity of opinion.”

The organization was born in February 2017, but it wasn’t until later in April when the organization would become a recognized club at AU, Zitzmann said. Most members of the publication have joined through word of mouth and the club has around 20 members, Zitzmann said.

The American Agora is a platform for productive political debate, Zitzmann said.

“I thought I and other people who were interested in this could do what we’re already interested in, which is observing American politics and global politics and commenting on them,” Zitzmann said. “And we could do it in a productive way which also makes us involved on campus.”

Junior Chris Fenn serves on The American Agora’s executive board, where he is the director of administration and a columnist. As director, he organizes meetings for the publication.

Fenn joined The American Agora because he was passionate about diversity of opinion, he said. Zitzmann and James reached out to him when they originally founded the club. Since then, Fenn has written columns on topics ranging from ballistic missile defense to AU’s campus security.

But, the organization has more work to do, Fenn said, namely with expanding their brand on campus.

“The biggest struggle is probably name recognition,” Fenn said. “People don’t know who we are, but I feel once we get our name out there, people are really responsive, especially when we talk about political diversity because we accept every viewpoint no matter conservative, moderate, libertarian, etc.”

Additionally, Zitzmann wants to diversify the organization’s staff, specifically in regards to getting more women involved in the publication.

“I’d also like to diversify our staff more and get a variety of different political issues that we may not be covering right now because we don’t have the expertise,” Zitzmann said.

Sophomore Brad de Ramón serves as the organization’s outreach director and promotes the club. More than just publishing politically diverse material, de Ramón hopes the organization can be more meaningful to the AU campus.

“While our main thing is political diversity, the mentality of trying to understand others and what they think and where they come from can be valuable in different aspects of life,” de Ramón said.

mcarrasco@theeagleonline.com


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