School newspaper rejects conservative student's pro-police op-ed

Though the paper initially wanted the writer to qualify his stance, they later claimed that his work was improperly sourced.

A conservative columnist’s article was rejected for opposing the ‘Defund the Police’ movement.

Editors of the main student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison rejected a conservative student’s opinion editorial criticizing the "Defund The Police" movement, citing the potential for “backlash” among the study body.

Tripp Grebe, a conservative columnist for the Badger-Herald, received an email from the paper’s opinion editor Samira Bhushan at the beginning of the fall term rejecting a piece he had submitted for publication. Grebe had previously contributed to the publication on numerous occasions.  In his piece, Grebe criticized the left-wing movements to defund and abolish the police.

In explaining the op-ed’s rejection, the editorial staff cited no issue with its factual basis or sourcing.  

According to emails provided to Young America’s Foundation, the editorial leadership objected to the opinion rather than its quality.  Grebe was told, “while your article was well-written, it is too much of a hot take right now and upper-management is worried about alienating incoming freshman students from The Herald.”  

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In addition to the possibility that Grebe’s op-ed might invite controversy, the Badger-Herald’s leadership was hesitant to publish because it believed the stance contradicted its own on the subject.  The paper had been conciliatory, and even apologetic about its coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been a driving force behind the "Defund the Police" effort. 

In early June, its Badger-Herald editorial board published a statement calling to elevate “black voices” through “ethical journalism.”

The email provided to Young America’s Foundation indicated that the publication was willing to publish the story as long as Grebe edited it and weakened his stance: “If you are open to re-editing it and perhaps qualifying your stance, we may be able to include your piece in the upcoming publication.”  In its request to qualify the stance, the editors again seemed to suggest that the strength of opposition to an aspect of BLM was the issue, and that it was concerned about the optics of publishing criticism of the movement.

Soon thereafter, another editor reached out to Grebe about his piece in order to correct Bhushan’s previous rationale explaining its rejection. 

The other editor claimed that Grebe’s op-ed had factual inaccuracies, something which hadn’t been brought up at all initially.

Grebe decided to take the news about his piece’s rejection to YAF.

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When YAF reached out to the University of Wisconsin- Madison’s communications office for comment, the office notified the editorial board about Grebe’s whistleblowing activities. Shortly thereafter, he received an email from Bhushan notifying him that he was dismissed from his position as a columnist and that he was no longer welcome to submit his work for publication.  

In this email, Bhushan absolved herself from involvement in the entire controversy and stated that the decisions regarding Glebe and his work were made by upper management at the Badger-Herald. A substantial amount of this letter defended the opinion section, claiming that it was open to many ideological perspectives. 

In explaining the prior rejection of his op-ed, she wrote that “any accusation that this decision was made solely because of the Editorial Board's endorsements is unfounded,” even though she had initially cited this as a major reason for its rejection.

When Campus Reform reached out to Badger-Herald leadership via email, Editor-In-Chief Harrison Freuck reiterated a point made earlier by Bhushan and another editor. He asserted that “the decision to not publish Tripp's article as it was came down from editorial management, which includes myself, Mary Magnuson and Molly DeVore.” 

Magnuson and DeVore serve as managing editors, according to the newspaper’s masthead, assisting Freuck with top-level editorial duties.

Grebe told Campus Reform that he “enjoyed being the only conservative columnist for a publication like the Badger Herald” and said, “It’s frustrating that my column was censored because its viewpoint was different from the paper’s editorial stance.”

Grebe also rejected the claims about sourcing issues, which he asserted hadn’t initially been raised to him whether over emails between editors and himself and in a meeting.  He said that “The Herald made it very clear both in their emails and during our meeting that my article was well written, and there was no sourcing issue.” This reflects the message to Grebe in Bhushan’s initial rejection email.  

He also believes that he wasn’t allowed the freedom to express his opinion, and said that “like any writer, I want to work for a paper that will permit me to express my viewpoint in a responsible way without being required to change my opinion to satisfy others.”

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Grebe also expressed that he’s not giving up on writing, telling Campus Reform “I look forward to finding the opportunity to voice my opinion elsewhere.” Before his pro-policing stance brought about his fall from grace at the publication, Grebe wrote in defense of originalism and criticized the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the Badger-Herald’s pages. 

A moderate conservative, Grebe has also been critical of President Donald Trump at times.

The Badger-Herald’s censorship of Grebe’s conservative views may come as a surprise to older University of Wisconsin alumni. The paper was founded in the late 1960s as a conservative competitor to the far-left Daily Cardinal, then the primary newspaper at UW- Madison, which had ties to campus radical leftists and was staunchly anti-Vietnam War.  

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @leo_thuman