Morgan Goodwin is upset that the Record did not publish his op-ed this week. His submission opened with:

I was doing some reading this week, browsing around between the NYtimes and the Drudge Report, looking for something suitable for a few minutes of healthy procrastination, when I happened to find the Stern report. And no, before you ask, I’m not talking about Howard Stern. I’d heard the report talked about a few times by people here and in some blogs, so I figured it would be worth a closer look.

No, really. I am not making this up. This is the opening paragraph of something — to call it an op-ed article is to insult op-ed writers everywhere — that Goodwin wants to publish in the Record.

I realize that you, dear reader, don’t believe me. You think that I am pulling one of my stunts, that I am making up quotes. You think that the above is the work of an ace Eph satirist, say Aidan or Seth Brown ’01, attempting to be as solipsistic and meandering as possible, capturing the sort of narcissism which only the young are capable of.

But, as usual, the truth is more amusing than any satire could ever be. Goodwin thinks that the best way to start an op-ed piece is to use the word “I” five times, to write a Dear Diary description of his evening activities.

With luck, the editors of the Record will provide Goodwin with some writing advice. An op-ed needs to engage the readers attention. What Williams reader would ever find a Stern Report and Howard Stern joke amusing? An op-ed needs to have a clear thesis, stated relatively early. What point is Goodwin trying to make? An op-ed needs to provide evidence to support that thesis and consider counter-arguments against it.

Now, to be fair, Goodwin does have something to say. He clearly believes that global warming is a problem and that Williams should make a contribution to the fight against it. I was engaged in similar discussions 20 years ago. To the extent that Goodwin can bring the dispute back to specific policies at Williams, what he has to say belongs in the Record.

It is certainly preferable for the Record to publish well-argued pieces about Williams by students than to fill its pages with similar articles by alumni or faculty or staff. Morgan and I agree about that. But if the choice comes down to student dreck like this versus alumni/faculty/staff non-dreck, it is easy to understand why the Record choose the way it did.

Perhaps this is too harsh. Perhaps “dreck” is too strong a word to describe an article with sentences like:

We care about the status of Williams college and our coveted number one status, but not just because we do things by the book.

Yet I pay Morgan the compliment of taking his writing seriously, of actually reading what he has to say and constructively (I hope!) criticizing it. I hope that his professors do the same.

Full Disclosure: I have a piece in the Record this week, but it not yet on-line. Morgan (and others) seem to disagree with the Record editorial board about whether or not pieces written by alumni deserve a spot. Sounds like a good topic for an op-ed! Just try to use “I” only, say, three times in the opening paragraph . . .

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