A Note on Anonymity in the Tripod

Throughout recent years, many students have reached out to the Tripod asking to submit articles, typically opinion pieces, anonymously. The most common reason we see that students wish to write without attaching their name to an article is fear of being associated with an especially controversial opinion. Because of this, our official editorial policy is to never accept anonymous opinion pieces, unless an extensive, legitimate explanation is provided. What constitutes this “legitimate explanation” is at the discretion of the Editorial Board. For this week’s issue, the Tripod chose to run an opinion piece on the Hong Kong/China crisis, and took the author’s assertion that, as a Chinese citizen, he and his family would potentially be put in danger if a name was attached to the piece. This is one of the few cases where the Tripod has allowed an anonymous opinion piece and the decision was made on the crux of this question of safety.

While the policy of a “legitimate explanation” may turn on the whims of the extant staff, its spirit attempts to transcend that limitation. When an opinion enters the realm of inciting potentially violent retribution, great care and editorial discretion is required in the consideration of its publication. The Tripod’s decision to run this anonymous opinion is not made lightly. Rather, it is the summation of countless discussions with the author of the piece and a thorough vetting of their reasoning for anonymity that resulted in the ultimate decision. This is not an arbitrary decision either: we exercise journalistic prudence in deciding what to publish. Exceptions are rare, precisely as the literal definition suggests.

The policies that dictate newspaper publication play an important role in how a newspaper is run, and the Tripod is no exception. However, with a constantly changing staff as well as complete turnover every four years, it can be extremely difficult to decipher and decide what policy and rules are set in stone for the paper. In coming years, the Tripod aims to move in the direction of peer publications such as The Bowdoin Orient and The Williams Record, which have established extensive policies available on their respective websites. These editorial policies cover how meetings are run, how corrections are made, ethical practice and all aspects of running a newspaper. They set a standard for how an incoming staff can operate as well as a guidebook to default on when questions of anonymity, as here, come into play. As the Tripod begins work on this process, we invite all comments and suggestions from members of the community to provide stability to the process of printing our paper for years to come.

This week’s anonymous piece is about a sensitive topic, written by a student genuinely concerned for their safety in their home country. To make certain that all opinions can be heard on campus, we wanted to give this student the opportunity to contribute their voice to ongoing political conversations on a topic of importance to all. In the coming months, we would love to see increasingly different and varying ideas represented in our opinion section, and truly encourage everyone who is inclined to write and present an argument to submit to the Tripod. It’s as easy as sending an email to tripod@trincoll.edu or going to trinitytripod.com.

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