Michael Thomas, Grand Forks, column -- Editor: Columnist Mock’s job was to provokeWhile Mock’s intentions in writing these articles seem to have been lost on these three letter-writers, his purpose for publishing both pieces simply was to ignite a vibrant and positive discussion among the students at UND.
By: Michael Thomas,
By Michael Thomas
GRAND FORKS — On Sunday, the Herald carried three letters chastising secretary of state candidate Corey Mock for two opinion columns he wrote in 2007 for UND’s Dakota Student newspaper.
At first, and as a former editor of the Dakota Student, I took pride in knowing that these three writers took it upon themselves to research the back issues of our newspaper and enjoy its content.
But with a little more consideration, I realized what these individuals actually had done. They hadn’t absorbed and enjoyed the journalistic work of our Dakota Student employees. Instead, they’d bypassed the headlines and jumped straight to the “Search” function, typed in Mock’s name and looked for whatever damning articles they could find to derail what had been an otherwise positive campaign.
And they apparently found exactly what they were looking for.
The two columns they discovered present Mock’s views on organized religion and voter apathy. The three letter-writers, one of whom is the executive director of the Republican Party of North Dakota, wasted no time in first coming to misrepresented conclusions about Mock’s ideals and then skewing his words into something negative.
Given the fact that I once headed up the journalistic efforts of the Dakota Student newspaper, I have some insight into what goes through the mind of a columnist working at a student-run paper. While Mock’s intentions in writing these articles seem to have been lost on these three individuals, his purpose for publishing both pieces simply was to ignite a vibrant and positive discussion among the students at UND.
In one column, he uses satire to beg the student community and everyone else who reads his column to think about what they are doing when they submit their votes for student body leadership positions. He was forcing his readers to ask questions of themselves and actively participate in the voting process not by simply casting a ballot, but by truly being involved.
In his column on religion, Mock isn’t demeaning or debating the existence of God. Instead, he is asking people to remain open-minded to the perception of God in each individual.
As a Dakota Student employee, Mock’s job was to comment on the way he saw the world. Furthermore, as any good opinion columnist is expected to do, Corey used his position to provoke thought and dialogue in a university setting where students are encouraged to think outside of the proverbial box.
He pushed for change in the voting behavior of students; he didn’t negate or belittle that behavior’s importance. He begged students to think openly about religion and God, not denounce God’s existence.
When I began working as an editor four years ago, Mock had a reputation for writing columns that were anything but cut and dried. He was known across campus for writing thought-provoking pieces that kept his readers on their toes.
It’s often the characteristic of a good reporter to be able to take on an alternate persona for the purpose of making people think. That’s exactly what Mock did, quite successfully I might add.
The Corey I met four years ago was in many ways the same one I know today. He’s a person of intelligence and sound moral character who is not afraid to push some buttons and incite at discussion and discourse, if not significant change. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and break away from the status quo — it’s the reason he chose a life of public service.
And for the position of secretary of state, that’s exactly what we need.
Today, the state Republican Party isn’t asking the tough questions or begging its voter base to think critically about the issues North Dakota faces. Instead, the party is focusing its efforts on attacking a young and vibrant candidate who exudes individuality and isn’t afraid to challenge.
Thomas is a former editor-in-chief of The Dakota Student.