A Fond Farewell

Nearly four years ago today, a meek and uninspired caricature of myself stumbled into his first ever meeting with the Michigan Review, hoping to find a welcoming community through which he could vent his frustrations into the ether of campus reporting.  What he found instead was an admittedly lackluster gathering of only six or seven students, many of whom appeared to spend most of their time complaining endlessly about the prevailing liberal zeitgeist on college campuses.  For someone seeking an established presence on campus, the Review left much to be desired.

Despite my initial hesitations, I noticed an intoxicating sense of passion among each member of the Review, particularly from its Editor-in-Chief at the time, Derek Draplin.  His iteration of the often unstable and frequently defunct publication sought to challenge the campus orthodoxy head-on, covering hard-hitting and controversial stories without any fear of repercussion.  As Editor-in-Chief, his pieces exuded an aura of witty, yet snarky, vitriol toward the actions of Ann Arbor’s more progressive crowd, calling for students of all backgrounds to share their stories of oppression and unfair treatment under this purported regime.  He took aim especially at the university’s administration, calling for increased transparency and chastising their wasteful spending at every opportunity.

Above all else, Derek’s passion for his work kept me on board.  While I seldom ventured into the realm of political commentary — most of my early pieces covered Michigan hockey —  I was inspired by the dedication of each staff member to pursuing the truth, even if that meant ruffling a few feathers along the way.  In my early days with the Review, I did all that I could to contribute to this mission, eventually rising to the rank of Editorial Editor and Publisher.       

As my role in the Review grew, my attachment to the pursuit of truth and freedom of expression grew concurrently.  During my sophomore year, while editor Omar Mahmood dealt with the ridiculous backlash from his satire piece, Do the Left Thing, I finally found my passion.  I was less enraged by the particulars of the controversy than I was by the substance of it all. Sure, his article was purposefully provocative and maybe a bit offensive; however, the bitter criticism he received for simply expressing his opinion angered me in a way I had never been before.  I realized that my mission with the Review was not to cover controversial news stories or relay the trite gripes of campus conservatives; rather, it was to preserve the inalienable right of all writers on campus to share their own opinions — however provocative or controversial — without fear of unjust censorship.  All this was underscored by a diligent commitment to the truth, whatever that may entail. 

Now, as I reflect back on my time with the Review through the lens of my computer screen, I cannot adequately express in words what this institution has done for both myself and the campus community at large.  I can, however, say with great confidence that we have made excellent strides toward creating a space on campus where all opinions are welcome, regardless of partisan ties.  We have enshrined a publication for which any student can let their viewpoint be heard and contribute to difficult conversations regarding complex issues both in Ann Arbor and across the globe.  We even successfully hosted an immigration debate on campus and weren’t booed off stage or shut down by protestors! That counts as a massive success in my book.

While I certainly have my regrets, especially regarding the more controversial and unsavory events I played a role in hosting, I believe the Review was able to offer me something no other organization could: an escape from the status quo of journalism.  In my view, the journalistic community is insular to a fault. As an editor, I traveled to multiple conservative-oriented conferences across the country, meeting young and budding journalists looking to express their opinions much like myself.  Much to my disappointment, I found these events did nothing more than reinforce pervasive stereotypes about the “oppressive left” and the “Failing New York Times,” never once giving proper credence to opposing viewpoints. One such conference I attended held truth in such disdain that its hosts peddled the narrative that climate change is a hoax. While I definitely met unique and interesting people at these events, I loathed the instinct of these journalists to consolidate their editorial work to one point of view or ideology.

This single-mindedness, I believe, handcuffs democracy.  Like it or not, we are a nation of fragmented ideas, carrying a diverse set of interpretations on constitutional freedoms and notions of our own perfect America.  We cannot continue to be a citizenry hell-bent on segregating ourselves into distinct baskets that serve no purpose other than reinforcing our preexisting notions of the truth, as we do with our consumption of news.  If we are to proactively make strides toward making America “great again,” we must embolden our commitment towards pursuing the truth, which necessarily entails communicating with those across the aisle.  This cannot happen without a commitment from news organizations to interact with opposing viewpoints, critique our biases, and learn from those who live in an entirely different America. In doing so, we as a people can learn from our diversity and work together toward solving problems that we mutually agree upon, rather than hiding in our respective corners and lambasting conservatives as Nazis or liberals as cucklords.       

The Review operates on far too small a scale to enact these proposed societal changes in any sort of meaningful way.  However, I believe our commitment to publishing all opinions, so long as they are based in fact, has opened up our campus community to a diverse, untapped mass of real opinions from real people.  I do not wish to live in an America where people are afraid to speak their minds and participate in the active forum of democracy.  Through the actions of the Review, I believe we have been able to share some of these censored and often unspoken opinions, and I am proud to have played a role in unearthing them.  

In closing, I have far too many people to thank for this opportunity.  I am indebted to the mentoring I received from each of the editors who preceded my tenure — Derek, Omar, and Deion.  Without their support, I would quite literally have no clue how to do this job. I must also thank our editorial board for their time and effort spend improving the Review this past year, making it more accessible to a broader audience and improving our own operational procedures.  In particular, I want to thank Rachel Neitzke for being a fantastic copy editing expert, enabling my petulant behavior by revising articles when I was either unable or unwilling.  Finally, none of this would have been possible without the support of my parents, for which I am forever grateful.

As I gear up to leave the coddling womb of undergraduate life and set my sights toward Wisconsin for three years of legal education and a slow death by exhaustion in the library, I wish the best of luck to our new Editor-in-Chief Cole Carnick, joined by Executive Editor Amo Manuel, that they may preserve the legacy of this publication going forward.  And, as always, I must leave by thanking you, our readers, for your continued readership. Your support has given me more than I can ever repay.

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About Jake Thorne

Jake Thorne was editor in chief of the Michigan Review.