Sunday, December 12, 2004

The elections for CT editors for next semester just ended. They went from noon to 7:30 p.m., and I'm told that's quite a bit quicker than how it went last year. I'm going to be one of the two copy editors. I'll still be there and involved and stuff, but it's a lot less commitment and responsibility than being a section editor or something else, so I don't have to feel guilty about leaving halfway through my term when I graduate. There was only one election result that I thought was really objectionable. Other than that, I can't complain.

During the talks, though I didn't think of it in time to bring it up with both serious candidates for Editor in Chief, I had a new idea about why the CT has so many problems with controversy. I mean, there's at least one big argument a semester, and apparently last week someone made a motion to censure us to the SA Senate or something - I don't know the details, but it didn't sound good - so it seems like we have more problems like this, proportionally, than we should.

Here's what I think: we the editors and staff all think of most of the paper - Opinions, Comics, Features - as an open forum for the student body. We'll print nearly anything sent to us, as long as it's not blatantly false or hateful or whatever. Even the other sections - they're not a forum for the writers, but we make an effort to get both sides of every issue, so to some degree it's a forum for the people we write about. So when people get mad at us, we often think they're being over-sensitive, not reading for context, shooting the metaphorical messenger, or even just complaining for the sake of it rather than doing anything to educate or raise awareness.

But I think that's not how most people see it. I think most people think of the CT as speaking with one unified voice, or trying to, or at least pretending to. I can see where they'd get that idea: the Editorial Board editorials are the first pieces in every editorial section and are usually the topic of the cartoon. Most - most - of us do tend to agree with each other and the student body on most issues. And most of the offensive stuff happens to be written by editors, or at least well-known long-term staff, rather than random students.

So I think most people read a logically incoherent or pointlessly offensive column by Rob Clemm, or a "Republicanism Now!" cartoon by Dave Pascoe where he didn't make it clear enough if he was satiring himself or the other side, and people think that's actually what the leadership of the paper believes, or even the majority.

Or, to take a more recent example that's causing the latest problems... last week we had a column on the Web page apologizing for the confusion over Ben's "interracial marriage" editorial and trying to explain it, but basically accepting responsibility for the confusion. We didn't commit to any deep changes over this, but I think we made it clear that we knew there was a mistake. But in that week's issue, we had a cartoon by copy Jay (copy editor Jason Buitrago) which was lightly making fun of the people who didn't get Ben's editorial.

To us, it was harmless and I don't think anyone even thought about how they'd look side by side. But when I heard there were problems with it, it occurred to me that if you put them together it might look like we're saying, "Okay, we're sorry you guys were too stupid to figure out what he meant."

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