The Chicago Thinker, which was just launched in October 2020, has recently enjoyed major national media attention.
On Wednesday, February 24th, The Wall Street Journal—the second most widely circulated paper in the United States—ran an editorial praising the Thinker. The Journal’s editorial board notes, “those running the University of Chicago must be pleasantly surprised by the arrival of Chicago Thinker on their campus this school year. It’s an online journal by conservative and libertarian students who refuse to be canceled.”
The Journal proceeds to cite several articles by Thinker staff, noting, “[g]ood for the Chicago Thinker—and even more for the university that promises never to coddle the students running the publication.” As a result of this effusive coverage, the Thinker quickly gained more than a thousand new viewers, followers, and subscribers.
A day after the Journal editorial, the Thinker was featured on Fox & Friends, a highly-rated cable news show that averages 1.7 million viewers daily.
Anchor Steve Doocy interviewed the Thinker’s editor-in-chief, Audrey Unverferth (’22), and the managing editor, Evita Duffy (’22), in an exchange that was picked up by other media outlets. Here is a transcript of their conversation:
STEVE DOOCY: A group of students at the University of Chicago [are] fighting back against the largely one-sided political culture they see on campus. They’ve launched a student-run newspaper highlighting conservative and libertarian voices with a mission that reads, “We demand not to be coddled. Embracing the experience of unfettered inquiry and free expression is precisely the point of these years of intense study.” Joining us right now [are] the founders of the Chicago Thinker. We’ve got Evita Duffy and Audrey Unverferth. Good morning, ladies—nice to see you today.
TOGETHER: Good morning. Thank you for having us.
STEVE DOOCY: You bet. And Evita has been on this program before because she is the daughter of Sean and Rachel Campos-Duffy. It’s good to have you. Evita, we’ll start with you. Why are you saying “We don’t want to be coddled”?
EVITA DUFFY: Well, self-censorship on campus has really become a sickness. I’ve experienced cancel culture, so has Audrey and other people that we know. At one point this summer, we said we’re done—we’re sick of being canceled. We’re canceling the canceling, and we’re going to start this newspaper to really showcase conservative ideals and ideas, and to give people the courage to actually say what they think in the classroom, which is supposed to be the one place where you’re supposed to think for yourself and have open debate.
STEVE DOOCY: [In] The Wall Street Journal, on the op-ed page, they [said] something about your paper. The headline is “‘No Speech Coddling in Chicago,’ a new journal from students who refuse to be cancelled.” Audrey, I’m looking at the demographics of your school and it looks like a survey at the beginning of the 2020 class [shows that] about three quarters identified as either liberal or very liberal, about 15 percent [were] moderate and about 10 percent [were] conservative. Would you say that the majority of the student body is accepting of your point of view, or [do they not] like the fact that you are saying things they don’t like?
AUDREY UNVERFERTH: I would say the majority of the students on campus who are vocal about politics are not supportive of our speech. So, when you look at the students who actually speak out about their values and their principles on campus, they do not want conservative voices [to be] in the arena. And that’s exactly why we founded the Chicago Thinker—to challenge that and to show that conservative and libertarian principles deserve to be defended. We deserve a voice, and it’s really important that we too partake in the battle of ideas on our campus.
STEVE DOOCY: I understand that, in 2016, the university’s incoming freshman class received a letter, informing them that [at] the University of Chicago “[w]e do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” So, Evita, it sounds like the school—the administration—is on board with what you have to say. But…you told me during the commercial break that in the last week or two, you have just gotten so many hate letters from people at your university who don’t want to hear the other side.
EVITA DUFFY: That’s right. The university is publicly very pro-free speech but the community fails to live up to that standard, most of the time. And so, from the onset of our publication, before we actually even launched we just said that “we have this idea” and we came public with it, we received lots and lots of hate from other students. But I think what’s more important than all the hate that we get from students is the amount of beautiful messages that we get from students and professors, actually, who are so happy that we’re doing this and that we’re giving them the courage to stand up, because students are afraid of being socially ostracized by their peers. Conservative and libertarian students are afraid of that, and professors are actually afraid of being canceled by their students in the classroom.
STEVE DOOCY: So, Audrey, it’s got to be refreshing to some that you’re actually taking a stand, because you know in a lot of American universities nobody’s doing what you’re doing.
AUDREY UNVERFERTH: Right. Well we even received a letter last night from a student at a university near us. And the student reached out and just said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you guys thank you. I thought I was the only one. I honestly thought I was the only conservative on my campus, and it’s so refreshing to know that I’m not alone. Can we maybe talk some time?” My answer, of course, is “Yes”—I would love to talk with that student. I think it’s so, so important to spread the message that conservative and libertarian students are on these campuses. We have a voice and we need to use it, and it’s been really exciting to watch as so many of my peers and friends join the conversation, alongside Evita and I.
STEVE DOOCY: Real quick, Evita, what’s your website, so people all across the country can look at it?
EVITA DUFFY: TheChicagoThinker.com.
STEVE DOOCY: Easy enough! All right, and they are the Chicago thinkers themselves. Evita and Audrey, thank you very much for joining us live.
TOGETHER: Thank you!
In addition to receiving positive coverage from the Journal and Fox News, the Thinker has been republished by The Federalist and featured by other publications, including the American Thinker, The College Fix, and Newsweek.