From the Archives (November 22, 1988; Volume 54 Issue 4) — Opinion: Role of The Press
Editor’s Note: The Commentator has decided to reprint the following op-ed about journalistic goals and ideals. Though written 30 years ago, the questions raised and ideas expressed remain relatable and relevant today.
There are those among us that feel the role of The Commentator should be limited to reporting only the positive aspects of YU. They claim the paper, being read by thousands including alumni, is no place for students to air their complaints, their criticisms or even their misgivings. Similarly they profess that the paper should not highlight any of YU’s lackings or failures, but rather should report the news in a saccharin fashion.
I must protest these assertions. As a responsible Yeshiva journalist, I am cognizant of the seeming tension between those who state that any form of public criticism, even if it be constructive, is forbidden and those who advocate the type of role Western society has reserved for the media.
As far back as Sophocles, philosophers have espoused the position that writers should portray the world as it actually is, so as to allow man to judge for himself his own iniquities and hopefully reform his actions. Similarly, our press is a medium by which our community, comprised of students and faculty, is able to evaluate its actions. Maimonides implies in his writings on repentance (Mishnah Torah: Hilchot Teshuvah) that before one can fully repent and feel remorse for one’s actions, one must be fully aware of what he has done. Thus, we need a means of examining our actions and a forum for constructive criticism that will reach all the members of our community.
We attend a yeshiva that prides itself on the encouragement it extends to the students to take an active role in determining its direction. We have a student government, Senate and Court, all of which are outgrowths of this desire and all of which are alien to the classic yeshiva. The classic yeshiva had no need for democracy since its goal was unidirectional--to teach Torah and thereby mold its students into proper Jews. Our goals are centered around Torah and the desire to be proper Jews, but often include secondary valid pursuits.
By instilling the framework for a sense of democracy in the yeshiva we must also accept its responsibilities. A democracy cannot function without the participation and the careful scrutiny of its participants.
Our paper is an integral part of a system of checks and balances which serve to safeguard students’ rights. Without the public forum, an individual’s complaints might receive little attention. Thus, by examining an issue, that maybe some would like to keep secret to the outside world, we are admitting our human frailty and are taking the first step towards correcting our actions.
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