While the pollsters projected a “red wave” in the midterms, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z voters fought back. They proved to be a formidable block of voters who shouldn’t be underestimated and ignored. They protested and took to the media and the internet through various social media platforms to express their views. They challenged the notions that fear, hatred and disinformation should be the foundations of our political institutions. And it showed in the results at the ballot box — at least at the national level.
Opinions matter. Expressing those opinions matters.
Democracies work by giving everyday folks a platform to express their views, affect change and keep politicians in check. College-aged individuals realized the foundation of our democracy, voting rights, climate change, civil rights, LGBTQ protections, reproductive freedom of choice, DACA protections and pocketbook issues like student loan forgiveness were on the chopping block. They knew that once these freedoms are taken away, they can be hard to get back.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing another assault on our public voices. Many community news outlets are eliminating their opinion sections. Think this is happening in some far-off, sparsely populated town? Surprise! It’s occurring near you in Gainesville.
The Gainesville Sun, owned by media company Gannett, has eliminated its entire opinion section of the newspaper. Gone. No community forum for public discourse. No sharing of ideas or voicing dissent. The voice of the people is no longer of value.
Is this a cost-cutting trend? Or is there a more sinister motive, given that Florida is now a “red state” and “woke” opinions are scorned by our governor? After all, Gainesville is reputed to be a predominantly liberal town, housing UF. Whether the reason was financial or political, the result is the same.
The Alligator’s opinion section provides those at UF with a forum to share their views on university politics, news and administration, in addition to opinions related to the local, state and national government. It gives Gainesville residents an opportunity to read what others think about certain issues and to be enlightened by the informed views of the opinion editor.
It keeps politicians honest and in touch with the needs of their constituents. And it offers a stage for people to shed light on misleading political ads. It also provided a necessary check on our personal biases by sharing views from those on the opposite end of the political spectrum. For the Gainesville community, that’s history. Don’t let it happen with The Alligator.
The Sun’s policy sends a terrible message to the students at UF. Here, you expect that the free flow of ideas are highly valued and encouraged. The takeaway? After graduation, your opinions and input might not be important. Not cost effective. Or, not in accord with the political party in power. The midterms exemplified the power of the student voice. Keep that alive. Don’t let media conglomerates silence you.
Stuart Floyd is a Gainesville resident and UF alumnus.