For the foreseeable future, The Daily does not plan to publish anonymous Op-Eds or Letters to the Editor, with a few clear-cut exceptions. In order for us to publish an anonymous Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor, three things must be true: The piece must be specifically relevant to those on campus, the story or argument can only be told or made by the writer requesting anonymity and there must be some reasonable expectation that publishing this piece with a name attached would directly endanger the writer.
Anonymous commentary has a long and storied history within American news publishing. The United States very likely would not exist in its current form without the rhetorical exertions of Publius — the pseudonym adopted by Founding Father Alexander Hamilton as he tried to get New Yorkers of the 1780s to buy into the new federal system.
The Michigan Daily has hosted anonymous writers as well; they have written on a variety of important topics: Chinese students have criticized the Chinese government and survivors of sexual assault have told their stories with a frankness that would not have been feasible with their name attached.
The Daily receives a great number of Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor. Every morning, we, the editorial page editors, wake up to about 30 Daily-related emails in our inboxes. Some of these are mass-emailed to every college newspaper in the country, unspecific, serving as a tirade on the topic of the day; some are from University of Michigan students wanting to write a restaurant review or opine on international politics; and some — the ones we tend to publish — are from community members wanting to write about tense issues closer to home. Some of those writing about U-M specific issues, such as antisemitism or Islamophobia on campus, request anonymity.
Given that fairness in coverage is one of our primary goals as an organization, we have generally preferred to grant anonymity rather than potentially risk the perception of favoritism on crucial local issues. These are the issues for which it is most necessary that our coverage be perceived as balanced, as students do not have access to a robust network of competing media on local issues like they do for national issues.
These decisions about anonymity are often difficult. While we do have a set process for deciding which submissions are selected for publication, The Daily does not have a robustly defined set of policies regarding granting anonymity to Letter writers and Op-Ed contributors who request it. Usually, it is at our discretion as the editorial page editors.
Our ability to utilize our discretion has, in the past, been affected by the decisions of previous editors who — in good judgment and in line with our practices at that time — decided to grant anonymity when we might not have. When we as editors have declined to publish a given piece anonymously, a common complaint is that previous writers, often arguing the opposite position of the prospective anonymous writer, have been afforded the opportunity to write within our pages without having their name published.
We are publishing this letter to fix this problem of competing precedents and define our institutional goals regarding anonymity.
If you are interested in writing a piece about an issue, and are not interested in being identified, we would encourage you to connect and collaborate with those on campus who are comfortable being named.
There is value to being named as an author of a piece — it encourages writers to be more honest and thoughtful when writing on contentious topics by adding accountability. We are hopeful that making this change publicly will only strengthen the quality of content being published from guest writers while helping to defuse tension on campus between nameless and faceless adversaries striking at each other through the curtain of anonymity.
2023 Editorial Page Editors Quin Zapoli and Julian Barnard can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.