Commentary | The collective burden

A new era of editorializing at The Daily

Alright Daily, ya did okay. Not spectacular, but pretty good. The News section was run by four of the most energetic and talented editors the paper has seen in recent years. On occasion, their job demanded some skillful diplomacy, but when the time came, they also didn’t hesitate to pull out the heavy artillery. The Sci+Tech, Sports, and Health&Education sections all did well in highlighting issues that are typically off the map. Commentary too often became a platform for unfocused manifestos and collective statements to the press, but it was deece on the whole. Features consistently failed to make a point; they were well-written for the most part, but I would have appreciated a bit more political gumption. And…what’s that other section I’m forgetting?

Anyway, what I’d really like to talk about here are The Daily’s editorials, which throughout the year were both sensible and gutsy. Occasionally they took on softball issues – like, for instance, their plea that readers adopt some of the 500 puppies rescued from an errant puppy mill in September. But they also stuck it to the man two weeks ago when they revealed that McGill had recently threatened The Daily with a lawsuit for their coverage of the McGillLeaks story. Calling the University out on these tactics of legal bullying takes definite chutzpah.

The editorial board – of which, to be clear, I am no longer a part – recently decided to change the writing process for editorials. For the past six years, at least, the process has been this: at the Monday ed-board meeting, a topic is chosen, and an outline hammered out. Someone volunteers to write the draft, and on Wednesday or Friday evening the entire board sits down to collectively edit the thing. Those meetings were prone to go on for as long as two hours – or until everyone’s hunger and exasperation pushed them into total acquiescence. They highlighted and exacerbated the political differences among the editors, but also brought them closer together.

Few, if any, publications today are so rigorously democratic, and from here on in, the collective edit will be a thing of the past. Which is fine. It’s not the case that collective decision-making is entirely gone. Editors will still have some input on the draft, and the topic and structure of the editorials will remain a consensus-based decision. Plenty of cases of bad syntax and awkward uses of certain words and aphorisms were the result of those screwy negotiations. The text, meant to anchor the publication, often wound up looking like a discombobulated stir-fry.

This may seem like more of the same navel-gazing that The Daily is often criticized for, and it is, but it also bears some important lessons for anyone interested in collective decision-making. Bringing the entire board – and any contributors unlucky enough to be in the office at the time – into the discussion fostered an atmosphere of humour and solidarity. While I’m not concerned that the paper will transform into a totalitarian fiefdom under the iron fists of the Coordinating and Commentary editors, I also want to emphasize that the collective decision-making processes at The Daily are a big part of what makes it so beautiful.

At the end of the day, however – and this might be an example of what people talk about when they say that ideals are abandoned with age – I’ve come around to the conclusion that collective decision-making isn’t always ideal.

The readers’ advocate column written by Niko Block addresses the performance, relevance, and quality of The Daily. You can reach him at readersadvocate@mcgilldaily.com.


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