Opinion Pen Paper

The return of the Opinion Section promises new ways for readers to interact with The Battalion.

Much like the rest of the university, the story of The Battalion is one of tradition and heritage. But, each generation of Aggie journalists brings new ideas and, consequently, new changes — whether voluntary or otherwise — to Texas A&M’s newspaper of record. Therefore, as The Battalion transitions into a digital-first media organization and its print publication evolves into a weekly publication, I felt it important to explain to you, our steadfast readers, what these changes mean in terms of our revamped Opinion Section.

Since The Battalion's founding in 1893, our content has come to embody the first reading of not just A&M history, but the reaction of the A&M community to the wider history unfolding around them. As an organization, we have taken great lengths to ensure that all content coverage is first and foremost completely independent — of the university administration, faculty, the alumni network or the prevailing popular opinion of the student body. At its most quintessential, the paper’s opinion pages have historically been a place for people’s ideas and sentiments to reach across the Aggie community. The relaunch of the Opinion Section is simply an extension of these principles, but with written dialectics and the unmediated opinions of this community at its nucleus.

First Things First

To begin, as the initial conversations of how we wished to re-mold the Opinion Desk took form, it was important that we settle on a well-defined, rigorous and distinct set of rules of how the factual reporters and editors would, or more accurately, would not interact with opinion writers and editors and vice versa. As such, decisions of what or how stories are written by the News, Life and Arts and Sports desks as opposed to the content discussions that take place on the Opinion Desk will be entirely separate from each other. Furthermore, there will be various internal accountability measures should it become reasonably apparent that this barrier has been breached.

Staff Editorials

One of the primary pillars of the new Opinion Section is the staff editorial. At various times, the editors may feel it important to comment on an issue of social, cultural or communal importance and relevance. As the beating heart of The Battalion newsroom, a lot of news and information comes across our desks, and we believe there is value for our readers in hearing the perspectives of the individuals most responsible for contextualizing and making sense of the stories you read. Staff editorials also give us an opportunity to elaborate on some of the editorial choices that we make in our coverage of specific events and topics — especially controversial ones — as we did when the white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at an event on campus.

Staff editorials will appear under the “The Battalion Editorial Board” byline and represent the consensus view of the Editorial Staff. Battalion editors will decide when and which topics to write about and what opinions to publish on these topics. The editorials will be written by one of the editors, but with the full input and participation of the entire Editorial Staff. As with all publication decisions, the Editor-in-Chief retains the final say on all published staff editorials. The full list of the Editorial Staff will be printed with every copy of The Battalion and is also available online on our website.

Guest Commentary and Cartoons

As I alluded to before, the framework we are building for the Opinion Section is one of “readers first.” So, in addition to our staff editorials, we will publish several types of signed opinion pieces, including guest op-eds, humor articles, open letters and various types of guest art. We welcome submissions from the entire A&M community — past, present and future. Guest pieces do not in any way reflect the views of The Battalion nor is their publication an endorsement of the views articulated. Those who choose to submit guest pieces will have free rein in choosing their topics. Submitted content will only be evaluated on accuracy, clarity and originality of content, as well as artistic quality in the case of drawings, but never based on the arguments or views themselves.

We recommend that you submit content on whatever topic you have a particular connection to or are passionate about. Guest submissions need to be signed by an individual or individuals. We will require that you disclose any conflicts that may affect how readers perceive or interpret the ideas expressed in your submission. As such, we will not accept for publication pieces that have been authored under a pseudonym or by an organization as a whole. This is to ensure that individuals take responsibility and ownership for the views expressed in their pieces. Failure to disclose conflicts or provide truthful identifying information will result in adverse action for the submitted content and may affect future submission decisions.

If you ever agree or disagree with any of the guest opinion content that you read in The Battalion, we encourage you to submit pieces, whether written or drawn, that are explicitly created in response to and reference the previously published content. The pieces need to be as specific, to the extent possible, on what they agree or disagree with in the published work. Written responses should not be longer than 500 words. All guest responses should be timely relative to when the referenced work was published. These pieces are not an opportunity to attack or venerate the creators of the original piece, but to substantively engage with the ideas that were published previously. These responses will be evaluated on the same standards of quality, accuracy, clarity and originality as all other guest content.

Guest pieces may be submitted via email to opinion@thebatt.com. If your guest piece is chosen for publication, you will hear back from our opinion editors within three business days.

Staff Commentary, Criticism, and Columns

Despite the wealth of guest contributions we expect to get from the ever-growing, diverse A&M community, we understand that our reader's demand high-quality, thoughtful writing from experienced writers. In line with this, the Opinion Desk will have a deep-bench of staff writers who will provide commentary articles both online and in print. Moreover, The Battalion will have several opinion columnists who will write bi-weekly columns. In selecting columnists each semester, the opinion editors will attempt to select a broad, diverse range of ideologies, themes and perspectives. Columnists will focus on a particular issue. Common topics may include artistic criticism, A&M life and culture, national, state and local politics, satire, and personal reflections.

Editorial Cartoons

The Battalion is also planning on having several editorial cartoonists, some of whom will be given space for a bi-weekly cartoon. Cartoonists, like writers, are not limited in the scope of what they can draw.

Letters to the Community

One of the new and unique initiatives will be the letters to the community. Very similar in format to open letters, rather than addressing any specific individual, these op-eds will be addressed “To the Aggie community,” and serve as an avenue for the A&M community to discuss the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. These articles are about who we are as a community and what are our values. Readers interested in writing a letter to the community should contact opinion@thebatt.com.

Letters to the Editor

The editors highly value comments and responses, both positive and negative, to any of the coverage conducted by The Battalion’s various desks. We want to hear from you and encourage you to write to us with all your objections or compliments addressed generically “To the Editor.”

Also, we do not expect you to agree with everything we have to say as the editing staff in our editorials. Direct responses to staff editorial content will fall under the category of letters to the editor. We also welcome any pieces in support of our staff editorials.

With the exception of to whom the piece is addressed, letters to the editor should be similar in form and will be evaluated the same as responses to guest contributions.

Letters to the editor should be submitted to opinion@thebatt.com.

Quality Through Equity

Opinion editors may produce staff content from time-to-time, but since opinion editors have a direct role in selecting columnists and editorial cartoonists, opinion editors will not be allowed to compete for these positions. Otherwise, this arrangement is also beneficial because it frees up the opinion editors to focus on reader relations and in improving the overall quality of both staff and guest content.

Clear and Present Transparency

The Battalion is committed to accuracy in the entirety of its publication. Should an opinion or editorial piece make a factual error or misrepresent the view of an individual or organization, please contact opinion@thebatt.com, and if warranted, we will publish a correction on a timely basis.

As we embark on this journey together, I look forward to engaging with all our readers and living up to their expectations and those of the history of The Battalion. To end, I leave with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, philosopher and poet, who perhaps best expressed the philosophy that will animate our opinion pages when he said, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

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