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One Last Article as Executive Editor

LCHS student's site the Outspoken Oppa lets teens voice views on hot-button  issues - Los Angeles Times
The following is an old bio from the Los Angeles Times Valley Sun: La Cañada High School juniors Ethan Kim, 16, left, and contributor Mason Pirkey, 16, display the homepage of their site the Outspoken Oppa, which aims to create a marketplace of ideas among students of varying beliefs.
(Raul Roa/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

How do three years feel like three seconds? Well, I suppose it was not exactly three years seeing that I became executive editor in December 2018 and will leave April 2021. In any case, it bizarrely feels both long and short. What’s interesting about the beginning of the website is that I have no memory of actually creating a literal WordPress website.

I have no memory of titling the website or even choosing a website theme; I don’t even remember naming it “Outspoken Oppa.” Maybe I can’t remember because I didn’t really think that it was a big deal or put much thought into this website. To this day, I still wonder about that.

Yet, what I do remember is sitting on the school bus that was driving to a wrestling match in the winter of my sophomore year, showing my friend my first article titled, “Death Penalty.” The article’s design was terrible, its writing was awfully simplistic, and the featured image was a comic strip. But it was my opinion and voice.

One of the reasons I started this website was really to promote constructive dialogue, a conversation that could be respectfully heard by both sides of the political spectrum. Initially, the website only talked about politics because I was fascinated with it. I also felt a large vacuum in political civility within our national discourse, and emphasizing civility within that discourse would lead to constructive conversation. Therefore, my first five articles dealt with the five most controversial domestic policies: the death penalty, abortion, illegal immigration, and gun control, all of which I stated my opinions in the most civil way possible.

As the website grew and more writers joined the staff, one political ideology dominated the majority of the articles. For almost a year after the website’s founding, every article aligned with a specific set of beliefs. Yet, the beauty of the website was that every person, regardless of beliefs or background, can join the website, creating a more encompassing atmosphere. Later, I hired people who strongly disagreed with my politics, economics, and religion. While it did create some conflict, especially within the management structure, the diversity of ideologies became a cooperative venture for the goal of political civility.

While there was political bias, the centralizing principle behind any political argument has and always will be to remain polite, respectful, and outspoken.

Eventually, I branched out to other topics like economics, entertainment, photography, cinematography, technology, etc. We also interviewed JPL engineers, a local mayor, and numerous candidates for a local governing board election. In doing so, from over 200 articles, several interviews, and several pictures, we have received nearly half a million viewers on both the website and our social media channels.

My Editorial Board, which consisted of the best editors I could have asked for, ideologically represented the core principle of differing viewpoints working together. Specifically, each member provided tremendous strength in their individual contribution to the website’s advancement. Charlie Park, my deputy editor, utilized his complex knowledge of government to develop well-thought-out opinions. Noah Chun, my editor-at-large, provided opposing viewpoints that eventually matured my understanding of politics. Edwin Tieu, my managing editor, employed his passion for a variety of topics and rigorous work ethic to develop engaging articles. Mason Pirkey, my development editor, strengthened the website’s success by calculating fiscal quarter projections for traffic.

Additionally, I would like to mention Ashley Olson, who is currently the lead graphic arts designer and video editor for the website. Honestly, she kicked off the series of interviews the website conducted over the past couple of years, a driving force that brought hundreds of thousands to the website. Most notably, she edited our initial interview with JPL scientist Peter Kalmus on climate breakdown, and she designed every single graphic that was posted on social media. She has truly modeled dedication and commitment to the website.

Lastly, I recognize Luke Kim, who is the next executive editor and my director of cinematography. Luke has time and time again proven to be an effective and compassionate leader that can connect with hundreds of his own peers. There is not much to say that has not already been said, except that I wish Luke the best of luck in his position and deliver my full support in his effort to continue the website’s mission.

When I founded the website, I recognized a deep and problematic division between our two parties. Today, two years later, such a gap still exists. If we are to advance as a nation, we must realize the individuality and morality of even our greatest political opponents, so we can have an honest and constructive conversation that is free of pettiness and useless soundbites. If there is one takeaway from this website is that this nation’s success will forever be predicated on our commitment to being polite, respectful, but most of all, outspoken.

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

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