Before an opinion piece is published in our paper, a rigorous process occurs beforehand. Columnists and writers approach our team with pitch ideas, which we must approve before they even begin. Next, they submit three separate drafts of their pieces and have them edited by 3-4 editors over the course of two weeks. The pieces are corrected for clarity and length, and facts and sources are checked. It’s a lengthy process involving going through each source to make sure it is unbiased and has accurate information.
The Mercury has the right to choose what to publish. Opinions that don’t reflect historical evidence, established precedent in the research community or aren’t pitched in good faith are rejected. The line between editorial discretion and censorship is a thin one and at the end of the day, censorship does not encourage thinking — it suppresses it. We’re here to encourage dialogue, not restrict it.
At The Mercury, we realize the gravity of our content, it’s why we avoid conflicts of interest. With regards to our opinion columnist Michael Lockwood, we would like to make it clear what we did to make sure any conflicts of interest were eliminated. Madison York, our opinion editor and incoming editor-in-chief, knows Lockwood personally and works with him as an officer of Comets for the Preborn. York typically handles all columnist hires, but she did not hire Lockwood nor did she look at or edit any of the pieces he has published. All edits for Lockwood’s pieces since he was hired are conducted by our managing editor, copy editor and editor-in-chief. Since York plans to become the new editor-in-chief, our managing editor will act in her place for any pieces Lockwood publishes.
Finally, there are opinions published in The Mercury that even some of our editors personally disagree with. There is a difference between publishing an opinion and endorsing it. The Mercury is not a representative of any political leaning, nor do we want to be. This is why we chose to publish opinions from both sides. We do not endorse any of the opinions we publish. Several of our staff members have made it clear that they don’t agree with Lockwood’s opinions. However, it’s our duty as a newspaper to ensure all voices are heard. We attempt to be as unbiased as possible in the editing process, which is why we make sure to eliminate all potential conflicts of interest from the editing process. Additionally, we encourage people — both inside our organization and out — to write rebuttal pieces or letters to the editor. If you feel strongly about an opinion, address it. Demonstrate why you think it’s false or offensive. Write a rebuttal or a letter to the editor. That’s what we’re here for.
We don’t aim to offend anyone, cause harm or invalidate anyone’s lived experiences — but we must also be able to act as a platform for free speech. We are telling the story of UTD, and this is one of the ways to do it: by representing the opinions of all UTD students, even those with whom you may disagree.