Editorial—Editorial Control

Dr. Angie Abdou is our feature once again this week, but this time we look at her take on a genre of writing that’s just starting to get some serious academic study, Sports Literature.

And while it’s a really good read, my time this week has more been taken up with another piece in this week’s issue, “Not My March” by Jaclyn van Beek.  It can be tempting, as the editor, to simply say no to pieces that I feel are fundamentally wrong.  Much as I would say no to any piece that was outright racist or sexist, there’s places people can go if they want to read that kind of stuff, I don’t think the student magazine of Athabasca University students should be it.

But then there are all those issues where I know many people believe things that I do not, but where expressing those points of view isn’t directly causing harm and where those beliefs haven’t already been irrefutably proven in error, even if I think they will be at some point in the future.  If the Voice Magazine is truly to be the voice of the AU student community, than those student voices, even when they disagree with my views, should be given a place.

This can be challenging for many student papers that seek to provide an ‘unbiased’ point of view, because students, you, me, the person in your study group, we all have our biases.  And that’s not a bad thing.  After all, if we all believed exactly the same thing, we’re going to be missing some opportunities in the places where our beliefs are wrong.

So as written in the Voice style guide, bias is fine. I don’t subscribe to the notion that reality is balanced, and demanding writing be balanced would then be sacrificing accuracy for some notion of fairness that doesn’t exist in the world we actually live in.  However, I do insist that writing in the Voice should be accurate.  It should be incontestable on the face of it.  This means adding qualifiers when things are asserted as general facts when they are not general.  Adding what I tend to think of as “weasel words” such as “might” or “may” or noting that something is a reflection about an opinion.  I don’t like doing this, and I often correct writers who do this when it’s not necessary, but sometimes they are.

However, the point of all this is that this effort makes me think about my own biases. How often do I miss a generalized assertion that may not be 100% true simply because it matches my own point of view?  This was more clearly pointed out to me when I was looking for an image that was gun positive, but not sexualized, militarized, or referencing the American flag or constitution.  It’s harder than you might think, and I found myself wondering, is that because we’ve all, outside the U.S., internalized a bias against there being a positive depiction of guns? Or is that because depicting what is a tool designed for destruction difficult to do in a positive way?  Bias and truth can often overlap.  There are very convincing reports written that banning guns doesn’t reduce violent crime, for instance.  That they are contested by a large number of reports showing the exact opposite doesn’t reduce their impact in that fashion. But no matter which way your bias falls, you can find some truth in there.  The difficulty becomes parsing out which is the more accurate reflection of our reality.  But then again, being able to do that is presumably part of what we’re being taught through our university career, isn’t it?    Let me know what you think, and enjoy the read!