Now that we’re all settled into school, the inevitable mud-slinging will begin, and more often than not editors of students newspapers are the ones that end up looking so filthy they should be in a Tide commercial.
That’s of course a round-about way of stating the obvious — that chances are, no matter what your political stripe, you are not going to like things in this newspaper and you are going to want to throw some mud our way. We say go for it! Debate is always messy, and mudfights, no matter how unsightly, can never really cause horrible pain, and sometimes can be fun.
The thing to keep in mind though is that not liking what you read in your campus newspapers should be different from not liking the newspaper itself. Because the newspaper, far from representing one ideology or viewpoint is actually here for the sole purpose of simply representing diversity. And diversity is something we should never throw mud at, not because it is a sacred principle, but simply because diversity is the essences of all evolution. Just as different species would not ever evolve if they didn’t grow a variety of new appendages—some of them good, some of them useless—so too thought won’t go anywhere interesting unless it grows every which way.
Just because something seems strange or stupid or weird doesn’t mean it should be dismissed because it can work. Just ask the duck-billed platypus.
This is a concept we tried to broach in our Sept. 10 editorial, which in all likelihood may have been rightly drown out by the horrific events south of us that followed shortly thereafter. It’s still on-line at thevarsity.ca for those of you interested in checking it out.
The point in brief though, is that we are desperately hoping you will experience this different way of relating to the media—a way that makes the readers the writers, and the writers the readers. Aside from being a thinly veiled attempt to let you know that volunteers are welcome and our doors are always open, we also are trying to make a few facts clear. Most important, is that the traditional rules for relating to the media are out the window when it comes to student newspapers. Normally, you pick up a newspaper — be it the Star, the Post, the Globe or even the Sun — based on how much it conforms to your interests and your views. Like Marshal McLuhan said, a newspaper is like sliding into a warm bath.
Although simple enough for us to say, the implications are profound. Normally, when you don’t like the media you just write it off. In student newspapers, the reverse is true—not liking the media is perhaps the best reason to get involved in it. Don’t like the news we cover? Find something that interests you and write about it. Want to see more film reviews, or poetry readings, or whatever in our arts section? Cover them—heck, we’ll even get you in for free. Don’t agree with our opinions? Write us a letter, or better yet, write us 500-800 words solidly debunking what we are saying. Call us on our shit.
We’re trying to redefine the way you relate to media this year, and like all new concepts, its going to take some time and imagination. It has worked in the past, and it can work here. A paper in the U.S. that made a solid effort to erase the line between readers and journalists began with a few habits that needed to be changed. We think they are worth repeating here:
Habit: We do journalism independent of readers.
The challenge: We can’t do journalism without the involvement of readers.
Habit: Fairness is contrasting different points of views.
The challenge: Fairness is conveying multiple, overlapping points of view.
Habit: An informed citizen needs facts to decide.
The challenge: An informed citizen needs conversation to understand.
Habit: The tyranny of either/or choices.
The challenge: The ambiguity of “and.”
That last one is particularly important because instead of using university as a time to explore, we all to often start off by deciding our opinion and then filing everything into agree or disagree categories. When that’s the case, there’s really not much point to us being here.
The alternative to either/or is simple: Don’t be afraid to express your opinion on anything but don’t think you have to have an opinion on everything. Don’t subscribe to the view that a newspaper should be a warm bath. Climb into that one and you’ll find your sense of possibilities shriveling faster than your skin.