Words have consequences

By Olivia Shackleton

When I wrote my column “Carroll News Controversy,” I was under the impression that I had clearly articulated my intent in publishing Declan Leary’s columns. However, after receiving an overwhelming amount of letters to the editor and online comments as well as having various in-person discussions, I can see that I did not explain my reasons for publishing his work well enough.

Freedom of the press was the basis of my argument. Yes, I know JCU is a private University, meaning the administration has the ability to restrict our speech, and that we are not protected under the First Amendment. I was referring to the First Amendment as a guide, using it to explain that freedom of the press is important for a democracy to work and be successful. As an aspiring journalist, I am trying to be as professional as possible and emulate a real newsroom environment even though I am still in college.

Another point that I want to be clear about is that I take full responsibility for publishing these columns in our newspaper. I see every single piece of work that gets published at least three times, Kathleen Mackey sees them twice and Carrie Buchanan, our adviser, sees and gives advice on the articles as well. Not one article ever gets published exactly the way it is written. We always have the articles go through this process of checks. I thought that everyone knew by my title of “editor-in-chief” that I edit every piece of work in the paper, but I have been told that people believe I do not remove anything from Declan’s columns. This is untrue; I spend around 10 hours on Tuesday nights editing the paper (that is not an exaggeration — I come at 5 p.m. and leave after 2:30 a.m.).

Additionally, the newspaper is the voice of the student body, Declan’s column is not. Every week we publish an Editorial, which reflects the opinion of the entire staff. Every week Declan writes a column, which reflects his individual views. These are not interchangeable; his views do not reflect everyone’s views. I would like to point out that we offered Kathleen’s opinion that supported the drag show directly beside Declan’s. We also published an article in the first edition of the year that highlighted the LGBTQ+ Allies group on campus and supported their organization. Last year while I was Campus Editor, we covered the drag show in the paper as well as the Allies’ sponsored trip to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So to say The Carroll News is against the LGBTQ+ community would be an incorrect statement. We cover Allies’ events just as often as we cover any other cultural organization’s events. If you want more coverage, my email is at the bottom of my column — feel free to send story ideas.

I made the decision to publish Declan’s columns and I will continue to do so. Declan’s voice deserves to be heard just as much as anyone else’s. Even though it may be an unpopular view, that does not mean it is not a valid perspective. As for all of the hate speech comments, I have to disagree. We may never see eye-to-eye on this point, but I have read that column over 10 times; although it may not be the kindest in terms of word choice, it does not qualify as hate speech. Declan writes through a conservative Catholic lens and describes ideals held by traditional Catholics.

The intent of publishing these columns is not to incite controversy, however that is a consequence. I can promise you that I am not putting The Carroll News’ popularity above people’s feelings. I have many close friends who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I respect and love them. I do not want to see them hurt and upset. However, I stand firm in my conviction that everyone should have the right to discuss their ideas and views, even if they are unpopular and possibly offensive. That is why I advocate for letters to the editor. Yes, Declan has a platform, but so do you.

I am hoping this will be the last time I have to address Declan’s writing in my own column. Declan is an incredibly talented writer, and I am so grateful that he is on my staff. However, this column is my space to vocalize ideas and issues that matter to me, so I do not want to spend every week defending myself, Declan and The Carroll News. If it is published, know that I stand behind it. If you are offended by his writing, don’t read his column.

There is more to The Carroll News than Declan Leary. An entire staff puts in an unfathomable amount of work to produce the paper, and I hope that the community reads the other columns and sections. Don’t get me wrong, Declan’s columns are definitely worth reading and he has something of value to say, but he should not be the only reason to grab the paper. There are other writers and editors who spend all their free time creating the paper, so to only focus on Declan is disrespectful to the rest of the staff.

As always, please send me a letter if you disagree or want to share opinions of your own. I hope I was able to better express my thoughts through this column. Trust me, I know that words have consequences.

Contact Olivia Shackleton at oshackleton20@jcu.edu.