BYU-I alumni start political blog to teach the basics of good discussion

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The homepage of The Civility Initiative website. Photo credit: Joel Randall

Four BYU-Idaho alumni and one current BYU-I student started a blog about political issues like immigration, cancel culture and national respect. The blog, The Civility Initiative, is a site for both right-wing and left-wing viewers of all generations.

According to the website’s “About” page, “The purpose of The Civility Initiative is to help heal our fractured country through civil discourse. … By writing and sharing researched articles, we intend to promote civil discourse about important issues.”

Though the blog has been running for six months, its Facebook and LinkedIn profiles have already gained almost 700 followers combined.

Zachary Beyler, a senior studying history education, joined The Civility Initiative’s team in late January. He said that the publication is a neutral space that shows viewers how to engage civilly in politics, and that its posts initiate discussions to practice that.

“We want to teach people the principles of having civil discussions,” Beyler said. “So, how to post something that’s not factually incorrect; how to check to see if something is correct; how do you separate your emotions from a discussion; how to not take things personally or give offense when you’re making statements.”

In addition to Beyler, four BYU-I alumni also work together to run The Civility Initiative: Lance Sayers, who studied political science; Logan Longhurst, who studied economics; Ranae Rudd, who studied English; and Mosiah Olvera, who studied political science.

Longhurst and Sayers started the idea of making a political blog. Realizing the blog would need extra support to be successful, they recruited classmates they had met at BYU-I, like Rudd to review articles and Olvera to help with social media efforts.

“It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t start talking, and that’s the first step,” Sayers said. “To talk and to work it out. And then you work on it. And then, if it’s something that’s going to happen, then those barriers will be removed or you’ll find a way to pound through them.”

As the five have collaborated together, they have added their strengths together and weighed them against their weaknesses. Rudd said that having everyone in a different area of strength has been great for the overall publication.

“When one member’s lacking in one area, another member can always step in,” Rudd said. “I feel like, communication-wise, we’ve been doing really great because we get to know each other better, and we get to learn our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those that we work with.”

Although there have been several difficulties with starting the blog — such as getting noticed and beating the Facebook algorithm — The Civility Initiative has been successful in opening conversation on difficult political topics.

“It’s been awesome just to have the dialogue with people our age,” Sayers said, “and to see that, hey, we can actually talk about these things, and we can actually dive into issues we care about without losing our head, without losing the whole purpose of the conversation.”

The team recently started a Civility chat series to discuss current events, interview good role models of civility and provide a learning opportunity for viewers. Rudd said a main purpose of The Civility Initiative is that others can be opened to new ways of thinking, understanding other opinions and learning from one another.

“My personal hope is that we help people be able to engage more with topics that maybe they were uncomfortable or hesitant to engage with before,” Rudd said. “That we can really create a community where people talk about these things and are okay having differences of opinion.”

Beyler, Sayers and Rudd explained that assistance at BYU-I — like great teachers, effective networking and instruction in intellectual development — have helped them to get where they are today.

“What BYU-Idaho has taught me is that there’s truth in everything, including people I disagree with, and that I just have to learn to see things from their perspective,” Beyler said. “That’s the point of The Civility Initiative, is to create a broad spectrum of different perspectives so that we can kind of piece together the truth.”

So, what happens next for The Civility Initiative? The team is working on gathering a larger audience of more than just friends or friends of friends. They want to reach milestones like surpassing 10,000 follows in Instagram to get the official blue check mark and become more recognizable. However, Sayers said there is more to their success than that.

“I mean, those things could happen, and I’m not saying they won’t,” Sayers said. “But we’re just happy to see … that there is legitimate interest in what we’re doing.”

For information about pitching an article to The Civility Initiative, contact civility.initiative@gmail.com.