Author Topic: [Google] Readers will Pick and Choose As They Please - Trinity Tripod (subscription)  (Read 848 times)

Offline News Thetan

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Readers will Pick and Choose As They Please - Trinity Tripod (subscription)
16 February 2010, 8:45 pm

We have just passed the most hated and loved holiday in our American holiday canon: Valentine's Day. Tradition tells us that on this day we are to express our affection and appreciation to those who mean the most to us: those whom we love. The entire holiday, behind the chocolates and the flowers and the balloons and the rented a cappella groups, is centered on one phrase, and one phrase alone: "I love you," which in itself is perhaps the most hated and loved phrase in the universal canon of expressions. So much can potentially hinge on the phrase, a phrase that can mean so many different things. There is the passionate "I love you," the friendly "I love you," the devoted "I love you," and so on and so on.

I'm writing this right now in Peter B's, and the family of a prospective student is sitting across from me. Casually eavesdropping, I realize that they are looking at the most recent edition of the Tripod, and the parents are looking it over to show their daughter the different types of things that Trinity students do. They see that the front page article on a trip to Tibet was written by two First-year students, and the father says "See, even freshmen get involved." To this parent, a simple byline is proof of student involvement. To a First-year student it might be a sign that there are exclusive opportunities they are missing out on. To an upperclassman it might be a sign of the noxious precociousness of over-eager younger students. As the section editor who commissioned that article, I will leave my own opinion on it out, as that is not my point.

My point, I think, is this: words, on their own, are simply words, and perhaps the hardest thing to do as a writer is to present your tone and meaning in a way that will be universally understood. We have literature classes because it is nearly impossible to do, and there are so many schools of literary criticism because, depending on the reader, a piece of writing can mean anything. Too often, I fear, do readers of this newspaper (and likely newspapers in general) pick and choose the parts of a story or article that they want to be angry about.

I recently received a good deal of passive aggressive criticism for one line in an Opinions article I wrote. I once received a (very long) Facebook message the summer after my freshman year from a Hartford Scientologist, criticizing one line in an article I had published about upcoming summer movies. In a passage about Hairspray, I wrote: "I look forward to it most for the cringing after-effect of seeing crazy Scientologist Travolta making a fool of himself." To me, the "crazy" was not attached to the "Scientologist," (if they were dependent adjectives, they would be hyphenated) but to the reader (likely a result of the religion's frequent public criticisms) took it to mean that I was saying Scientologists were crazy. I'm not defending my choice of words-it was admittedly haphazard-but to that reader, a certain message was clear. Readers are allowed, even expected, to interpret things their own way. As a writer, you want to make your point clear, but if someone wants to take offense to something that you see as inarguably true, so be it. Stirring the pot is the fun part of writing.

If one writes an editorial, they are not necessarily disagreeing with a point of view or an action. The end goal of any criticism is either discussion or change. In my sophomore year, the Tripod published a provocative cover with the headline "President Jones, We Protest," an issue aimed at improving campus safety. Now, the school would hesitate to ever give the Tripod any credit; we pissed them off too much. Was the editorial board of that semester (myself included) upset that we didn't get any credit? No. We were pleased because after we raised our voices, we saw change. We couldn't take all the credit for the changes, nor would we. What mattered to us was a loud voice and the eventual change that ensued. Getting credit doesn't matter, results do. We saw our headline and accompanying editorial as controversial, but deserved. Campus Safety and the administration saw the headline and editorial as rude, insulting, and inflammatory. Sure, sometimes we make mistakes and we need to apologize. This was not one of those times, and we defended our actions.

Readers who don't like what you are going to say are always going to pick that one bit that irks them. Regardless of the general sentiment or theme of an article, if there is one thing that annoys them, it will be the only thing they see, and probably the only thing they vocally take offense to. But again, the point of voicing your opinion is not to make anyone happy (except maybe yourself). The point of voicing your opinion is to stir the pot, to get thoughts out there, and maybe, just maybe, to have things set straight.

more at http://media.www.trinitytripod.com/media/storage/paper520/news/2010/02/16/Opinions/Readers.Will.Pick.And.Choose.As.They.Please-3872341.shtml
« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 22:37 by mefree »
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Offline wynot

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While interesting, and even possessing a bit of depth, this seems awfully tangential to me...

'til next time;
wynot
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

Jacob Riis

Offline mefree

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True...........slow news day. News Thetan does what he can ;)
The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.
-Dalai Lama

Offline wynot

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it's cool...

later!
wynot
"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

Jacob Riis