A Voice For Those Who Are Unheard: ASU Students Launch Center-Right Publication
MARK BRODIE: It's been said that this is a unique time to be in journalism, and some ASU students have entered the fray and are looking to carve out a niche for their voices. The Western Tribune features both news and opinion, with the latter slanting right-of-center. Joe Pitts is a sophomore at ASU studying business. He's co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Western Tribune. He's also president of ASU College Republicans. He joins me to talk more about this. And Joe, first off, how would you describe your publication?
JOE PITTS: So the Western Tribune and, you know, our classic tagline is, you know, "Giving a voice to the often unheard voices of our generation." And so what that means is that we're often going to serve as a platform for students on campus whose ideas are sometimes not as represented in our student paper or in local papers. So obviously, in our opinion section, we're going to have a lot of voices that lean to the center-right. But we also aim to have a huge news operation that's going to provide local campus and even regional news, that is nonpartisan and it comes across as clear into the point.
BRODIE: So you mentioned that the opinion section anyway, will be sort of center-right, a more conservative bent. But in reading some of the pieces up there, it almost seems like a throwback to an earlier time. You know, something you don't necessarily see on conservative sites anymore. How would you describe the types of issues you're looking to be taking? And I guess maybe the type of tone that you're looking to take?
PITTS: Well, I think there's desperately-needed platform for obviously young and independent student journalism. But, you know, young conservatives who take these issues seriously and are interested in a genuine conversation on these topics. I think there's a lot of sensationalism nowadays, and I think if the conservative movement wants to survive, we're going to need to be able to have honest conversations, especially among the next generation, about the issues that face us. And, you know, you have this idea of it being an old bent. Well, I mean, I obviously don't think the future of the conservative movement's going to be found in the past. But I also don't think we can be held down by the dogma, the current party, either. I think we need to work together. We need to talk all shades of red all within the same big tent and come together and try to forge, you know, a new future for the party and for the movement that really represents the next generation.
BRODIE: Are you looking for this to be more issue-driven as opposed to maybe personality-driven or politics-driven?
PITTS: Well, there's no doubt that if you make politics and you make political movements personality-driven, they're bound to a fizzle out and fizzle out pretty quickly because, as you all know, people come and go. Ideas can stay so, so long as they, you know, stay alive in the hearts and minds of individuals. So it's definitely going to be issue-driven, but it's also going to be a matter of, you know, looking back at Western civilization, looking back at, you know, the philosophy that has guided us all the way to where we are today on seeing how that can inform how we move forward as a movement and as a country.
BRODIE: There has been so much talk, and I'm sure you have been a part of that, about the future of the Republican Party — especially as it relates to the current president and how he has sort of made over the party in his image and what the future of it might be relative to that — if it goes back to what the Republican Party was maybe under Presidents [Ronald] Reagan or [George] Bush. I'm curious how you feel about that and how the Western Tribune kind of fits into that.
PITTS: Well, you know, I do think there's this, there's this idea among some that the party has made some radical, you know, shift to — lurch to the right, you hear from the media, going from all the way from like, Reagan all the way up to Trump. Right? But people don't realize a lot of the same policies that were espoused under Reagan and Bush are now being espoused under President Trump. I definitely think that there is some merit to the idea of this outsider, this idea of shaking things up in Washington. But also at the same time, we can't let the movement, we can't let the party be constrained by one person. Obviously, in my capacity, I'm also president of the College Republicans at ASU. In that position, you have to toe the party line. But as editor — editor-in-chief of the Western Tribune, as just an individual voter here in Arizona, someone who's civically engaged, I recognize that the party is going to have to go beyond the president whether, you know, no matter what happens in November. And I'm hopeful by some of the new voices we're seeing. You know, I mean, we see Sen. McSally, you see Sen. Tim Scott, former governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Josh Hawley. There's a lot of fresh blood in the movement. And I just think it's a matter of time before people start to recognize it.
BRODIE: It's interesting because I want to go back to, to tone for one second —
BRODIE: Because the tone of the pieces that I've read on the Western Tribune seem very different than the tone — and obviously an article will sound different than a tweet necessarily — but they sound very different in tone than the comments and the tweets coming out, for example, of the White House and some of the Republicans in Congress and in the Senate. When you talk about trying to, to focus on issues and not personality is it harder to do that? Or maybe is it more important in your mind to focus on the issues so that the tone of it and maybe the hostility on both sides of it doesn't get in the way of the actual policy?
PITTS: Yeah, I mean, there's a place for, you know, being polemic, right? If you're the president of the United States, you're running a campaign year, if you're in a close Senate race, I understand the necessity to, you know, get a little bit more ratchet up on these issues. But I think from where we're standing and as students, we see that there's a long-term goal here. We have long-term goals we want to affect. And I don't think there's any reason to try to make undue enemies of anyone on any side of the political spectrum when we can actually just have a genuine conversation. And I think that's one thing that we're dedicated to.
BRODIE: How do you judge whether or not this, this project is a success?
PITTS: Well, I mean, obviously we've internally set our own goals on that. But I think this success — and one thing I always like to say is, "If you leave the world a better place than it started" — if we leave, you know, the institution of journalism in the long run, better than it started, if we leave our campus better than it started, if we leave the conversation better than it started, I'll view that as, as a success. Obviously, I have more lofty ambitions for this project that I wanted to ... Ultimately, the sign of success for me is going to be in 10 years. This is surviving without me on campus, without me involved directly. That's my goal. But there's a ton of metrics for success. And I think in this new market, there's no telling where we'll be a decade from now.
BRODIE: All right, that is Joe Pitts. He's a sophomore at ASU, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Western Tribune. Joe, nice to talk to you. Thank you.
PITTS: Thank you, Mark. Have a wonderful day.