Having an opinion as a friend and a journalist

I am many different things to many different people. I am a friend, I am a student, I am a journalist.

There are many facets of my personality, some of which I wear on my sleeve and some I just keep to myself.

As a journalist, the way I am perceived has a heavy influence on my career ambitions. But, as a friend, I really just want to be there for the people that I care about. Usually this means setting my own beliefs aside.

This is something that has become increasingly difficult, particularly in regards to a recent controversy that broke out on my stomping ground – the Laurier Brantford campus.

I won’t go into detail with this debate; if you are trying to figure out my stance on this issue, you should know that I am being intentionally vague.

Instead I wanted to focus on some of the underlying pressures a journalist might face in this type of situation.

I come from a place where everyone is very conservative. Lots of cowboy boots and pick-up trucks – it’s like a little mini Alberta tucked between two intersecting 400 series highways.

This means that when I come home to visit, I basically have ‘Liberal Arts College’ written on my forehead – a phrase that very loosely translates to “please come at me with your bullshit rhetoric.”

Don’t get me wrong, these are my childhood friends and I would never just tell them that they are flat out wrong.

I will, at first, tell them where I see the logic in their argument, hearing them out before I respectfully disagree or share my own interpretation. And that’s usually the end of those discussions.

I am transparent with my opinions and even though our viewpoints clash pretty often, they pretty much always allow me to respectfully disagree with them.

So then why, when I am on campus, where people are supposed to be open-minded, progressive thinkers, does everyone want me to choose a side? To choose their side?

I get that there is a very polarizing argument going on around me, but as a journalist, is it not one of my few obligations to remain as objective as possible?

A lot of my peers, teachers and colleagues would seem to disagree.

I have been playing devil’s advocate a little bit more than usual, to be honest with you, but this doesn’t mean I should have to finish every conversation I have with the words, “you aren’t going to convince me, either way.”

I mean, yeah, maybe there is a problem with free speech on university campuses. I can’t rule that out.

If I can’t have this kind of discussion on campus without feeling a ridiculous amount of pressure and judgement from either side, then that definitely isn’t really an environment that fosters diversity of opinion.

But if this super conservative, “free speech,” “we-must-be-able-to-have-dialogue-on-campus” stance on the argument were to imply that a certain group shouldn’t have stood up for what they believed in, then aren’t both sides at fault here?

If you ask me, a very important time to practice free speech is when people feel unsafe or stifled.

If that’s the case, then who are we to chastise a young group of students for speaking up, whether or not we fully agree with their cause?

Isn’t that what free speech is all about?

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