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May 18, 2024

Reflecting on the role of The News-Letter in campus discourse

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | October 26, 2023


The News-Letter published an op-ed last week titled “The Israel-Hamas war is not too complicated for Hopkins students,” which took a pro-Israel stance on the conflict. Following its publication, The News-Letter and the article’s author received backlash for its lack of historical context on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The News-Letter is receptive to criticism of our journalistic practices and takes student concerns about our decision to publish the op-ed seriously. We want to clarify that all Hopkins affiliates are invited to submit op-eds to The News-Letter, and an op-ed is not reflective of the views of The News-Letter or its staff as a whole. 

At the time of the op-ed’s publication, we had only published one perspective on the conflict. The News-Letter understands that this created a skewed representation of Hopkins students' opinions. Our Opinions Editor solicited pieces on the conflict from the hundreds of Hopkins affiliates on the Opinions section email list and, so far, has received two. The other op-ed, “We have lost sight of the bigger picture in Gaza,” has since been published, as well as a Letter to the Editor responding to the original op-ed. 

Though we strive to represent the diversity of beliefs held by the Hopkins community, we can only publish the op-eds we receive. That is to say, with the exception of one alum, those who have expressed disappointment in The News-Letter for publishing one perspective on the conflict have not reached out to provide another.

While some readers have argued that a pro-Israel view should not be published at all, it is a view held by a not-insignificant portion of the student body, and as a student newspaper, we believe it reasonable to document that view and publish it. Our mission is to “serve as a permanent, reliable record of Hopkins and the lives, actions, sentiments and passions of its students at the time of publication” and to “provide an open forum for expression and discussion within the Hopkins community.” 

The News-Letter has always tried to publish a range of viewpoints, even those our editors disagree with. While the 2018–19 Editorial Board condemned the creation of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD), an op-ed in favor of the JHPD was published that same semester. As we attempt to represent the diverse voices on our campus, we try our best not to let our own opinions impact our publishing decisions. 

We know that, amid this conflict, many members of our own Hopkins community are enduring pain, confusion and fear, and The News-Letter wants to foreground empathy at this time. We recognize that the tone of the original op-ed can be, and has been, interpreted as condescending. This is not the register that an op-ed on the conflict merits, no matter the viewpoint, and we will be more cognizant of this going forward. 

For those who have critiqued the op-ed and our decision to publish it, we are listening. We are reflecting on what it means to be a college newspaper, the duty we have to our readers and what our role should be in campus discourse. 

We understand that some students may be unwilling to write op-eds or attach their names to a piece due to fears of doxxing and threats. If you have concerns about this, please reach out to our editors, and we can work with you. If you would like to express your thoughts to us, please consider submitting an op-ed, or even a Letter to the Editor in response to this article. The News-Letter exists to serve the Hopkins community, and we will always appreciate feedback on how we can better represent you.  

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