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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Factual Basis of an Opinion Piece

Bella Rios

Bella Rios was a 2018-2019 Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

Jack, an opinion writer, submits a piece condemning affirmative action policies in the university's admission process. He argues that such policies are racist because they consider race, rather than merit, as a criterion. He contends that this unfairly advantages students of color, and not White students.

Elena, the editor-in-chief, reviews the article before publication. She was unaware of the university’s use of affirmative action in admissions. She contacts the Admissions Office to inquire about the application review process, and learns that the university does not practice affirmative action.

Elena believes that opinion pieces must be rooted in facts – even if the paper has made it clear that it does not endorse the viewpoints on opinion pages. She does not want to mislead and deceive readers about the school’s admission process. Furthermore, given growing concerns about misinformation and disinformation, Elena believes in the crucial importance of accuracy in journalism.

However, Elena recognizes that by not publishing or editing the article, some might accuse her of limiting Jack’s freedom of speech. Opinion pieces often provide alternative perspectives, and prompt contentious debate. In declining to publish Jack’s opinion, Elena worries that some may accuse her of political bias.

Discussion Questions

1. Should Elena publish Jack’s opinion piece? Why or why not?
2. What are the consequences of publishing an inaccurate opinion piece?
3. What is the responsibility of the paper to opinion contributors’ freedom of speech?

Jun 7, 2019