Daniel Orazio, Commentary Editor
In my heart, I suppose, I will always be a copy editor, ever a guardian – paid, of course, not merely self-declared! – of right grammar and stylistic convention. For one with as large an ego as I have, it is the ideal job, allowing one to cackle and criticize in secret, one’s decisions rarely second-guessed and almost un-vetoable, one’s only real threats one’s fellow copy editors (who for some reason think that their opinion matters too) and an over-attentive managing editor, who should really stick to matters within his own pay grade, trivia like layout, distribution and Sententiae Antiquae Novaeque.
Do I sound insufferable? Forgive me. A certain pomposity goes with the territory, and is probably a necessary defense against creeping madness. There came a point during the 2011-2012 school year – I feel it’s now safe to admit – when I saw option-dashes and semi-colons everywhere I went, when my every step was wearied by thoughts of serial commas and the arcane distinction between ‘that’ and ‘which.’ You too, gentle reader, might have found refuge in self-puffery, as if all your obsessing over an unread newspaper actually mattered!
Well, a semester as Commentary editor sure has broadened my perspective. For one thing, we really do have a readership. We’re read by administrators, faculty and a surprising number of students. I probably should have learned last spring that we’re read by administrators, when the crack in the wall between Carpenter 219 and 220 was filled in almost as soon as my article mentioning it had hit the press. As for faculty, one professor called last semester’s second issue the finest University News he’s ever seen (and he’s been here a long time). And I was privy to numerous student discussions between September and December about the quality of the paper, not all of them laudatory, of course, but all of them evincing at least a small interest in and knowledge of the paper’s contents.
Reflecting on the Commentary section, I think this interest was merited, for last semester Commentary featured many good articles and a few I would call great. Every issue the section had something to offer, be it a reflection on New Orleans as home, a rumination on an oft-neglected plaque, a challenge to the conventional wisdom about Iran, or a vigilant call to (right-wing political) arms. The series exploring the rooted and peripatetic ways of life was thoughtful and wise – and novel, methinks, for a college newspaper. There were challenges to the conventional wisdom not only about Iran, but about the Church of the Incarnation, the UD campus, and how to stop abortions. Multiple authors wrote about beauty, both in the concrete (the UD campus and church) and abstract, as in Jillian Schroeder’s musing on Keats’s theory of Negative Capability. Without the Commentary section of The University News, all of this good writing might never have come to be. I’m certainly glad it came to be.
We debated important campus issues – Prayerful Presence, smoking zones, social fraternities, the proposed senior gift – even over the objections of some people (and there are some on every campus and in every institution), who don’t want things to be discussed, who want changes made in secret and controversies quickly forgotten about. But we discussed things anyway: intelligently, thoughtfully, civilly – though we weren’t always above polemic, which I’ve found to be a rather good means at getting people’s attention.
And why have a Commentary section – nay, why have a college newspaper at all – if we’re not going to write things that get people’s attention? This section is doing its job when it gets people to read, to think, and to discuss, be the subject matter baseball, pianos, Texas seasons, the cafeteria, the Knights of Columbus, the bad behavior of certain students, presidential politics, foreign affairs, the value of spontaneity, or the joys of a good cup of coffee. The reading leads to thinking, which in turn leads to discussion, more thinking and maybe more reading too. In other words, The University News, the Commentary section and all of our individual writers contributed to the intellectual and cultural life of this university, our beloved alma mater. This is a real service, one more people recognize than I assumed when I became Commentary editor.
Those of you reading this who wrote for Commentary last semester, I do hope you will write again (and again . . . and again . . .) this coming semester. Those who have never written for Commentary before, I ask that you consider doing so. Even if you’re in Rome, I welcome your submission. (Witness Isabel Dubert’s ode to Robert Frost in this issue.) If you have any good ideas for articles you’d like to write, please contact me to share them. I am up for running most anything as long as it is interesting, thoughtful, informed and otherwise well-written; being funny helps too.
Let’s have another semester of a newspaper worth reading; so please write, and encourage your (smart and funny) friends to write too.