April 27, 2010

Letter From The Editor: Anonymous Columnists

I think a major strength of our site, and something that differentiates it from its predecessor is complete absence of anonymity of our staff writers. When redesigning the blog in the Fall, we decided that the use of pseudonyms connoted that there was sense of fear among Us, and that couldn't be further from the truth. To reiterate our mission statement, we are not afraid, and we feel safe here. We've gotten so much positive feedback from people that have commended the openness of the writers, and this comment is pretty much Sentence Of The Year for me. The Out Community is blowing up on campus, and I feel as if all of these pictures and full names effectively convey that.

We were not so stupid, though, to think that everyone would be willing to be so visible. Our goal is to effectively and honestly capture what life at Duke and in America is like for LGBTQA students, and this cannot be done without also providing a podium for our closeted peers or those who just could not be as open were they writing under their full name. We set up the anonymous posting system to address this, and it's been hugely successful. 65 entries since November 9 is so many entries!

But! But. I think we may've overlooked a major possibility - that some of our out friends in BDU, more than willing to display their full name and picture, would not be able to out of fear of repercussions at home. A quick Google search of a columnist's name+"Duke" would lead here, and could very well mean a cutting off of tuition funds by parents for some or a revoking of scholarship by ROTC for others. As valued, awesome and all-the-more important as their visibility on the blog would be, it would not be worth being disowned or financially cut off. I know some that would argue otherwise and I understand their point of view, but I'm going to stick by this one.

At the last blog meeting, though, we all agreed that we should find a way to include the voices of those who were still willing to be regular columnists. Our current anonymous posting structure is not conducive to the frequency or length of columns, and I personally don't like the connotation of putting longer entries in a separate post like I did last week. So from now on (starting today) we will have some anonymous columnists.

Here's what I'm worried about. I don't want Readers to assume that anonymous columnists are not sharing their name out of fear of being out on campus. This is no doubt the case for many Duke students, and may even be the case for some anonymous staffers in the future, but I urge y'all to recognize that the choice to not identify one's self is not necessarily a reflection of campus culture (however discouraging campus culture can be). More often, I'm finding, this is a testament to what life's like back home.

Anyhow! While this seems like an obvious solution, it was a decision and precedent we had to discuss quite a bit. Like I said, pseudonyms didn't work too well on the old blog, but I'm confident that we will differ in our huge volume of identified writers that'll be right alongside :)

Okay! Let's do this!

1 comment:

  1. Yo, Chris Perry--I'm excited about this addition to the blog. I feel this is a reasonable compromise to make, because these individuals are such an integral part of our community that to not offer them a way to share their voice would be a mistake. One important way that these columns will differ from the other anonymous posts that you didn't touch on is that though these columns' by-lines are pseudonyms, the regular contribution under a single pen name allows the author to develop an identity/personality in a way that a series of unmarked anonymous posts does not. I think this is helpful for readers to be able to "get to know" someone in this manner.

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