The Ideal v. Reality

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I started this entry, but didn't complete it before class.  I was asked about what I was writing about in class, and it started a discussion between me and my instructor, Dr. Jerz.  The subject of the assignment was Editorial writing, and Dr. Jerz provided his guidelines for writing editorials, as well as an opinion piece he wrote several years before about Seton Hill's new football program.  While reading the piece, I noted that there were several times that Dr. Jerz did not follow his guidelines for editorial writing.

In the guidelines, Dr. Jerz warned of vilifying the opponent you are arguing against.  But in his article, Dr. Jerz called student athletes "testosterone-for-brains Neanderthals", and said that "[b]y embracing football, the school lofts a mighty 'Hail Mary' pass to muscle-bound souls conditioned to respond to no other call."  He also mentioned that college recruits are at "the most self-centered, hormone-addled, celebrity-obsessed, marketing-controlled, "voting-is-for-old-people" phase of their lives."

Dr. Jerz also warned about using vague or unnamed sources in an editorial, and stressed the importance of interviewing sources and citing specific statistics.  But in his article, the only first-hand source he used was an unnamed student he paraphrased, who was making a generalization about how student athletes spend their time in computer labs.

By pointing this out, I wasn't trying to mock Dr. Jerz, but rather prove a point.  While there is an ideal for editorial and opinion piece writing, it is rarely followed.  Editorials do not follow the same rules as news-writing, and because of that, they also do not follow the same standards for accuracy and bias.  However good editorial writing, while it may have a point of view, will make an effort to be factually accurate, as well as making concessions to the opposing viewpoint.

Original Assignment


Context, Andrew!

I referred to "traumatic run-ins with a few testosterone-for-brains Neanderthals" in my past. And since ultimately that editorial concluded that there was nothing wrong with embracing football at Seton Hill, my "opponent" would therefore not be student-athletes, but rather it would be anyone who still felt that football at Seton Hill was a bad idea.

I was speaking to an audience that I expected would be skeptical about football at a small school, so the first part of the editorial used language that the skeptics would use.

Yes, I've gotten a bit of flak for that editorial, but that's a risk that anyone takes whenever you make an opinion in public.

Thanks for explaining your reaction. It also gave me an opportunity to demonstrate how to respond to a critical reaction.

Andrew Wichrowski said:

That was fast!

But something I've learned to deal with at the Setonian is how to balance my intention with how the reader perceives my work. While I might mean to express one thing, readers will often perceive what I say as having a different meaning. While your intention may have been to humorously characterize your past run-ins with jocks at your High-School, other negative comments you made about student athletes lead me and several other people in the class to view those comments as if you were equating all student athletes to "neanderthals."

Right! And the tips for writing an editorial are something that I could only write after having had that experience. Life is full of moments that teach us, and I'm happy to share those experiences with you.

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