Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sounds of Silence and Ice Packs for Tired Eyes

I finally have a break in my schedule to post something here.

So I've been busy. The Arizona Daily Wildcat was following the election and accidentally found itself in the middle of a controversy concerning a cartoon from Keith Knight, creator of The K Chronicles. We accidentally printed a two-week-old cartoon that contained a racial slur. Not the complete word, mind you, but it had enough that you can tell what it is.

For some people, this confirmed their suspicions of the Daily Wildcat as being racist, on top of being libertarian, right-wing, radically liberal, Republican, and an agent of censorship. Oh, and I can't forget the misogyny and misanthropy that seep into our articles. But that's a whole matter altogether. [Peruse the Opinions section and search for "libertarian," "liberal," "right-wing"...]

No, what happened was a production error and for that reason, the Daily Wildcat accepts full responsibility. The content was never up for discussion for print, so for anyone who believes otherwise, the paper has never made a stance of condoning or condemning the cartoon.

To me, the content of the cartoon points out the fact that issues of race and politics in the U.S. are never as black and white (uh, right) as some people may want to believe. Then again, I don't believe that we, as a nation, are in a "post-racial" state, especially when I consider the vehement reaction people in Arizona and around the nation have toward the issue of immigration.

Anyway, the controversy launched a storm of letters and articles and people were shouting without thinking clearly while multiple sides were drawn around the paper. Two local TV stations (NBC and Fox) covered the controversy, both of whom presented their own biases in their reportage.

As for me, it meant I had to double my efforts as copy chief in making sure that the people who wrote to the paper, often for the first time, and their message were presented in the best light possible. This meant taking out spelling errors, making sure their grammar and syntax were smoothed out, and modifying the letters to adhere to AP and Wildcat style. In the end, after all the readings and re-readings and edits, I'm certain I read approximately 12,000-16,000 words in the Opinions section every weeknight after the election. That comes out to be 36,000-48,000 words for Opinions, never mind the rest of the paper with the election coverage and a spectacular football season and the separate, weekly section for WildLife (i.e. Arts).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's the equivalent of a paperback a sliver under 200 pages (based on 250 words per page).

Whenever my copy editors (or anyone else, actually) ask me how and why I do my job after telling them the above anecdotes and facts, I tell them, "I don't know. I just do it."

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