Ideological affiliation dominated the online shouting match that erupted in response to William M. Burton’s letter titled, “It’s time to stop pretending.” Amidst the sea of personal attacks, a particular comment sparked my interest. Patrick Levy said, “It is about time that The Daily stops pretending that it’s an impartial newspaper and just admits it has a leftist/socialist agenda. The Prince Arthur Herald makes no effort to conceal the fact that it’s partisan. Why is The Daily afraid to come out of the closet already?”
This answer is very obvious. The Daily is an impartial newspaper. The fact that many of the opinions published are left of centre does not change this. The Daily allows for opinions of any nature to be published (except those that violate their comment policy), so there is no institutional bias. More likely, it may be possible that “right wingers” just don’t feel comfortable sending their views to a “left” dominated paper. This is where the Herald comes in.
The choice of the Herald to “make no effort to conceal the fact that it’s partisan” is not one which should be looked at as the moral high ground. The Herald markets itself as a Conservative online newspaper to attract viewers. There is obviously a conservative following at McGill which needs to be fed, and the Herald successfully does so, attracting “almost 10,000 unique visitors,” according to its President Kevin Brendan Pidgeon. This is not to say that contributors to the Herald do not genuinely hold more conservative views, but rather that the paper has presented itself as the poster child of this view in order to gain following. The Herald should not be criticized for framing itself as the Conservative option. The Herald needs to do something different to survive, and it has done so while not only surviving, but flourishing.
Moreover, the Herald presence has been greatly beneficial at McGill due to its role in inciting back-and-forth political debate. Merely having freedom of speech in society is not enough. An indicator of the success of freedom of speech is the presence of a plurality of opinions. University and college campuses have long been held as shining examples of settings where free speech flourish, and the addition of the Herald to the McGill arsenal only aids in this belief.
While it is unfair to say that The Daily is a partial paper, if the creation of outlets such as the Herald allows for students with views not shared by the majority of those seen in a major paper on campus like The Daily to feel more comfortable in providing their opinions, only praise can be given. Yet it is important to realize that while The Daily may be a major paper on campus, outside of the McGill “bubble” many of the views expressed and issues covered within The Daily are ignored, or shut out.
Essentially, the idea of an ideological us vs. them perspective on The Daily and the Herald is a misguided one. Both papers should rather be seen as indicators of success in the pursuit of plurality. Cheers to the McGill community for doing such a great job of allowing freedom of speech to prosper.
Davide Mastracci is a U0 Arts student. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.