Award-winning journalist speaks on cancel culture 

By Julia Train

IN honor of LGBTQIA+ History Month, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion brought award-winning journalist Ernest Owens to Rider on Oct. 24 for a presentation titled, “Don’t Get Canceled.”

Owens concluded his national book tour for his book, “The Case for Cancel Culture,” with a stop on Rider’s campus to talk to students, staff and faculty.

Owens, an openly gay Black man, shared his career journey and thoughts on cancel culture, and talked about his book on the topic, of which students were able to purchase a signed copy afterward.

The 32-year-old University of Pennsylvania alum was born in Chicago, grew up in Texas and moved to Philadelphia to pursue a career in journalism.

His work has been featured in a variety of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Rolling Stone.

He reports on intersectional issues, such as race, gender, LGBTQIA+ community and pop culture and has won countless honors and awards, which include landing a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2020 and the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Now, Owens is the editor at large for Philadelphia Magazine and a fierce advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.

‘Not a left … or a right side thing’

Owens spoke for about 30 minutes on his pro-cancel-culture stance, noting the hypocrisy of both major political parties regarding canceling people and differences between the sides.

He mentioned how people with platforms can get canceled countless times and still have a career and emphasized the importance of holding well-known figures accountable for what they say and do as opposed to cherry-picking the topics or actions that are “cancelable.”

He also shared advice about advocating for others and yourself, mentioning that fighting for basic human rights for those from marginalized communities is an important piece to the puzzle.

Students’ thoughts

There was a mix of students in attendance, some of whom were there for extra credit, like Jade Smith and Madison Caporrino, who went for their Seminar in Writing and Rhetoric class.

“People always fight to make it against each other, but we’re only canceling people based on our own beliefs … And it was really interesting seeing [Owens] point out that perspective and explain [it]. So everyone gets a better understanding that it’s not to divide us as a whole but to keep us together,” said Smith, a freshman business administration major. “All these horrible issues are happening around us and no one does anything about it. And now that we are doing something about it, it’s an issue.”

Writing the book

Owens wrote his book as if he were writing a long-form article. He spoke with individuals who were both for and against cancel culture, while he remained neutral during the process of authoring his book.

He spent seven months researching, writing and talking about the subject so that he could cover every aspect he could think of. He touched on politics, laws, social justice, celebrities and more.

He interviewed a constitutional law professor about the free speech aspect, political consultants from both ends of the political spectrum, music executives and others in the music industry, civil rights lawyers, activists and community organizers.

In 2019, he got a book agent and signed a six-figure deal. During the process of writing his novel, Owens was simultaneously planning his wedding and working his normal hours in the midst of the pandemic.

After a four-year process, he reached the conclusion of his national book tour, which began in February.

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