Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
Other fellow Samuel Taylor Coleridge fans out there — or Colers, as I pretend we like to call ourselves — may recognize this brief quote from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Readers, however, may be wondering why this editor has chosen to quote an 18th century romantic poem in a college newspaper’s editorial. Potentially, it will become the pivotal quote of this piece, and, with a deft hand, I will make a nuanced point about how this quote relates to the dangerous modern world. Or — and this is the more likely option — I have just reread “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and I had a hankering to quote one of my favorite lines and tangentially relate it to current events.
Well it turns out, neither option is correct. Admittedly, as I sat down tonight to write this editorial, the irresistible urge to quote a poem overpowered me, but of course basing an entire piece on the desire to quote a poem is awfully ridiculous and self-satisfactory. Fortunately, this incident did set my mind to thinking and direct me to an actual purpose about the nature of editorials themselves and the journalists that write them.
Most of us in this office are, in some capacities, writers. Some of us dabble in it; some of us want to make full careers of it; some of us even have aspirations of delving into creative writing. Regardless, at this point in our lives, we are paid — no matter how much or how little — to compel our audience — no matter how big or how small — to stay and read what we have to say. A different way of saying this is that we must force our words to have power. An often harped on point of conversation in our newsrooms, as well as every other newsroom, is concerning respect for the audience.
Admittedly, not all publications consider this respect a priority, but I feel pretty safe in saying that the subject has come up, at least in passing. Either way, journalists have several lines of defense against faulty information. Even at student publications, stories are supposed to go through several layers of editors to remove bias, misnomers, misquotes and a plethora of other faulty information.
It is with this line of thought that the realization comes that journalists respect the stories and opinions of others far more than many of them seem to respect their own — when they are given the freedom to tell them.
As mentioned, tonight, to my own fault, I fleetingly considered basing an entire editorial around the desire to quote some literature I liked because despite all that is occurring in the world, both controversial and not, I wanted to play it safe and not challenge myself. Journalists, especially of the fledgling variety, tend to be either timid or dismissive of their own opinions. I’ve seen interesting opinion piece prompts tossed around from one editor to the next, until someone begrudgingly accepted the task.
It isn’t because we are lazy; it isn’t because we don’t care. It is a more systemic issue than that. It is because we often approach our own opinions with the timidness of a newborn kitten, even while we stick our hands in the fire of controversial news stories.
Many of us have chosen writing as our field of study, and, as writers, we end up being jack-of-all-trades, masters of none in most other fields. On top of being dabblers, we are trained to keep our opinions a few miles away from our news and feature articles. This all culminates into an almost primal distaste whenever we are tasked to tote our opinions. So we stick to the safest of safe topics — violence is bad, freedom is good — or we try to avoid giving away too much of ourselves in our commentary.
Though we wholeheartedly agree that opinions should be treated with the most caution we can muster and they are supremely dangerous to both ourselves and our publications, we cannot fear our opinions; we simply must respect them.
For the third time, our words are meant to have power, and, through our own opinions, we can use those words to write for the people who cannot write for themselves; we can challenge our readers; we can engage them. Though we may not be experts in all subject areas, we are information gatherers, and we are the citizens that show up.
So what is the point we are trying to get at in possibly the longest editorial written in over a year? Well, for one, we hope to make the editorials of The Jambar one of our priorities this year by diversifying their subject matter and improving their content. More importantly, though, we want to say that the stories we choose to tell are powerful, much like our words, and it is our job to respect them and use them when appropriate, not hide them away like some shameful secret.