Thursday, November 24, 2005

Again, on Ayers at Monmouth (and other things)

I have promised a few folks that I would keep up with posting anything related to the Ayers visit to Monmouth College, so, again, I am transcribing the words of Ira Smolensky, this time from his weekly column in the Daily Review Atlas*. For some background, Ira has been both a professor of political science at Monmouth College and a paid columnist for the DRA for quite some time, and his column only recently was moved to beneath the fold on Wednesday's op-ed page.

Again, any typographical errors not signified as in the original are probably mine.

*whose editors very kindly print my weekly column at no cost to me.


News writing and loud writing
As some readers might have noticed, I got to try my hand at writing straight news last week when the Review Atlas allowed me to cover the much anticipated talk by Bill Ayers, former Weather Underground revolutionary.

While I enjoyed the challenge, news writing is not easy for me. An op-ed column can go just about any place you want to take it. As such, it is a great exercise in freedom, which is why I have taken the time and effort to write six or seven hundred columns over the years, and, along with the Energizer Bunny, hope to keep going and going and going.

With news writing, you pretty much have to tell it straight, with no creative frills or flourishes. Of course, there is a tremendous amount of craft involved in converting a real life event into words, sentences, and paragraphs that accurately convey what occurred.

And, because of the limits of space, readers' attention spans, and time (with ever impending deadlines a fact of life fo most reporters), there is also the difficult choice of what is to be included in (and excluded from) a news story. Of course, if you are a reporter who also writes columns, you can follow up on the news story with additional nougats of information and interpretation.

For example, readers might be interested to know that fellow columnist Rebekah Kloeppel, who had tried to arous opposition to Ayers [sic] talk, actually had the good grace to show up and give a listen.

"The biggest thing," Kloeppel told me, "is that there's discussion on the issue... Anything of the magnitude of the controversy surrounding the man and the historical period (the '60s and '70s)[sic parentheses] shouldn't be slid under the carpet."


This, of course, means that praise is owed to those who brought Ayers to speak at Monmouth College, without whom there would have been nothing controversial to discuss, as well as Kloeppel, without whom some of us would have been unaware that such a notorious personage was in our midst.

Another tidbit that could not be fit into my news soty was the fact that Ayers was a remarkable speaker, with a voice timbered just a bit like Tony Bennett's frequent flashes of humor appropriate to his audience, and a refreshing inclination to candor. On the other hand, Ahers never got around to speaking about his revolutionary activities or his years on the run. This, I did not think was accidental.

As I was writing the news story on Ayers' talk, smething else occurred to me. In my column previous to Ayers' talk, I had raised the question of why many of us could forgive Robert E. Lee, but not Ayers. the answer, I decidedc, was simple. Lee was clearly on the wrong side. So he wasn't a threat to our moral self-image. Ayers, on the other hand, tactics aside, was on the right side. I think that's just too painful a pill for some people to swallow.

Recently, some folks have asked about my demotion to the bottom of Wednesday's Op=Ed page. Of course, this is a blow to my ego, since nobody wants to be passed over by a self-proclaimed "village idiot". But, it'll take more than a reduction in rank to demoralize me. In fact, I plan on taking the advice of a crusty old columnist I once knew.

"Write loud," he told me, which is exactly what I plan to do.

Again, feel free to comment here, or direct your comments and questions to Ira via the Review Atlas or Monmouth College.

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