On Thursday, Oct. 20, the Beacon published a Letter to the Editor — a letter that expressed views I rarely see in my inbox.
The reality is that we do encounter discriminatory submissions, just hardly ever in the form of a letter submitted for publication. As a news organization, we receive tips in the form of phone calls, mailed letters and emails with suggestions about suspected terrorist groups we should be investigating. Some readers believe we should be writing articles about potential dangers or threats to our campus because of the presence of certain groups. Unless we can confirm that a danger or threat truly exists, and is not simply the perception of fearful individuals, we dispose of these ideas as quickly as they're raised.
However, Letters to the Editor are not news tips, nor are they articles. They are not written by our staff, endorsed by our staff or reflective of the views of our staff. Our policy on Letters to the Editor is that we will run them in-full and unedited, and we hope to run as many as are submitted. We have never censored submissions because of the person's opinion or logic, and I hope we never do.
We are an editorially independent student newspaper, and we cover news that we believe matters to our community of UT and Knoxville readers. Not all of these readers share the same opinions on any given issue. That’s the beauty of American democracy and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; we are all free to have our opinions. While our news coverage isn’t likely to support the ideology expressed in Johnson Smith's letter, it is not in our interests to squelch that opinion just because it does not align with our own or could be offensive to groups on campus.
The Daily Beacon is first and foremost a platform, and our priority is always to demonstrate the various perspectives surrounding issues on campus, locally, state-wide, nationally or even internationally. Whether we agree or not with these perspectives is irrelevant. The Beacon is a public forum, and the sad truth is some opinions are full of hate. Censoring those opinions does nothing to defeat them, and as a result of the publication of this letter, we are now seeing an overwhelming amount of support for Muslims pouring out of our community.
We are doing a disservice to our readership if we pretend these opinions and the people who think them do not exist. And, I would encourage all of you who were outraged by the letter to submit response letters. Overwhelm our office with your letters of support.
'They're not all like that,' expressed one man's opinion. But, the incredible number of people who are showing up in support of Muslims is what we should be focusing on now.
Because of this incident, we will be revising our Letter to the Editor policy, which will publish in Monday's paper. The new policy will impose certain restrictions upon the format of submissions and require additional information about the author. However, we will not be placing restrictions on the content or views expressed.