Opinions: The year in review, and the year ahead

2016: The very opinionated year

An election year is always a good time to be opinionated, especially one as crazy and unpredictable as 2016, when Donald Trump, the guy perhaps previously best known as host of “The Apprentice,” blew his competition out of the water and convinced enough of the country to put him into the White House. The Opinions section, or “Ops” for short, had no shortage of articles about our new president, but thankfully, we didn’t become obsessed with him. Although we kept an analytical and critical eye on Trump (how could we not?), the Ops writers continued to offer their takes on countless other topics, local, national, scientific, ethical and academic.

This past year was another great year for Ops, as each week’s edition offered many, many great articles throughout this past year about a multitude of topics. Our writers covered things like self-driving cars, Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, the implications of David Dao being forcibly removed from his United Airlines flight and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey — not to mention the myriad of other contentious topics in between.

Two big goals of the Opinions section are to cover a broad variety of subjects each week and to let as diverse a group of voices be heard as we can. We accomplished that well this past year, especially when it came to controversial topics like Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem, the Standing Rock protests and, of course, the infamous and truly bizarre 2016 election. Overall, not only have this section’s articles been informative, persuasive and personal, but also, they’ve helped further the discourse on several topics, and we hope to expand upon this even more going forward.

“Remaining firm and closed-minded leads to stagnation in policy-making and creates new issues.” – Adriana Lopez, from “College Republicans: Divided they stand

Comics continue to liven up the paper

Previous Ops editors have praised our comic artists for the essential role they play in the Ops section, and this is a point that definitely bears repeating each year. This past year, we’ve seen the comic section grow and develop in how it enhances the written content. From political commentary to humor and of course, great art, the comic section has breathed a lot of life and vibrancy to Ops, which is important to a section that often covers dreary and complicated subject matter.

This quarter, our comics section was home to Justus Ross’s “Tall Tails” series, Timothy Wong’s “College Dropout” series and many other comics by Matt Hong, Chak Cheong, Jacqueline Lee, Betteena Marco, Kaitlin Reilford and Julia Krum. Keeping this section strong augments the ways we can talk about important subjects, and also helps us to laugh and unwind once in awhile. Qualities like these are essential for keeping the Ops section fresh, and help build on the ways in which our content engages with our readers. The Ops section especially has always sought new ways of building more engagement and interaction with our readers, and this year’s selection of great comics by talented artists has built on this aspect more than before.

“The fundamental way a startup is different from a corporate job is the lack of structure; it is where risk-taking and being different are celebrated.” – Shawn Pham, from “Campus startups are great, if they’re inclusive

Covering topics both big and small

Another thing that the Ops section accomplished this year was in how it succeeded in drawing attention to the smaller and less-covered matters and subjects around our community and country. It would have been easy, in a year as eventful as 2016, to become swamped by the gloom of our world’s current state of affairs. Instead, however, the Ops section balanced its focus between the everyday issues of our UCR community and the bigger statewide, national and global issues. Not only that, but the variety in the types of articles we produced, like the more personal R’Perspectives and the weekly editorials, helped to make sure that the Ops section was always bringing fresh ideas, experiences, research and thoughts to the table, whether for smaller, everyday issues or big-picture topics.

This year saw plenty of great highlights of this in action, more than can be named here. One Write-Off between Evan Ismail and Faraz Rizvi broke down and analyzed President Trump’s first speech before Congress, offering two cases for the potential courses on which the new president might take the country. An Op-Ed by Arhem Khokhar laid out issues with the recent UC tuition increase and argued for an alternative to higher tuition, while a Letter to the Editor by Daniel Ruppert-Majer discussed the necessity of the increase in GPA requirement for members of ASUCR. Finally, one of our best R’Perspective series this year was the holiday one, in which many writers shared their experiences with and perspectives on the holiday season.

The diversity of the content produced by this section was great, and brought a lot of great ideas and insights to the page, making 2016-17 a strong year for the Ops section’s coverage of our community and country.

“People with great power must always have that power checked, and informing the general public is the first step to holding them accountable.” – The Editorial Board, from “Trump’s ‘War on Press’ is a signal for more responsible news reporting and active readership

Highlights of the Year

Of course, nobody can talk about 2016 and early 2017 without addressing the elephant in the White House. Both the meteoric latter half of the election and Trump’s eventual victory had a huge impact on the end of this year, and the new president’s actions and implications for the country were the subject of many Ops pieces, from the moment that he was named president-elect to the weekly issues of his presidency and the changes he has made to the country. As with the other controversial subjects that we covered this year, the Ops section’s conversations around the Trump phenomenon was as articulate, brilliant and passionate as was for the other subjects that we tackled.

Although Trump was a significant highlight of the year, we had far more on our plate to discuss, like UCR’s issues with diversity, legal marijuana usage, California’s problems with water and perspectives on protests and freedom of speech. With a year as active, divisive and, frankly, strange as 2016, the Ops section never had trouble finding things around our world that merited discussion, from things as light as Pokemon Go to heavier subjects like the importance of protecting undocumented students on campuses. We had interaction with the community, great art and storytelling in our comics, insightful dialogue and a wide array of diverse, distinct views and voices in print and online. Between our increasing engagement with our readers, the high quality of the articles and the variety of opinions that were able to find a platform on our pages, 2016 was an absolute success for the Ops section.

“The First Amendment is in many ways the most important one. Freedom of speech means so much to people and so much to the politicalized culture that has been cultivated over recent generations” – Christopher Ramos, from “Interfering with protests means silencing freedom

Looking forward to the year ahead

As we conclude another year at the Highlander, saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new, it’s always helpful to reevaluate the year’s events and identify what to do to keep up the momentum of the past year.

The quality of this section relies on having a wide variety of ideas, beliefs and thoughts expressed in each issue of the paper, but it doesn’t simply stop there. Ops truly finds its success when the dialogue on our pages continues off the page, spreading online, around our local community and out into the world. As we go forward, we hope to build on this dimension even further. The reader should always have a platform in the conversations that we start and continue here in the Ops section, so that they can add their ideas and opinions into the mix and have a say in the discourse. Without a doubt, this is one element of the section that we look forward to expanding and innovating in, so that we can increase our reach and bring more of our community’s great minds into the discussions about our campus, our community and our world.

Thank you for following this section, and we hope you’ll join us for another great year.

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