Soon after I started blogging, another writer told me that she didn’t want me to read or comment on her site ever again.
It’s almost amusing that I could inspire such animosity because for the larger part of my life, I wouldn’t say shit if my mouth was full of it. I walked very softly, and avoided controversy. I kept my own counsel, and when I met people who didn’t like me, I tried to find some common ground, some way to smooth over the rough edges.
Studying journalism at the University of King’s College changed all that. At first, I was out of my element. I remember when William Thorsell, then editor at Toronto’s Globe and Mail, was being raked over the coals by journalism director Michael Cobdon. I cringed inwardly. I agreed with Michael, but man… Couldn’t he find a way to broach the subject politely?*
Every day was like that. I was completely unused to being in a room with so many smart people who spoke so openly and passionately. About everything. Any subject we could conjure was open to debate, nothing was sacred. Students argued forcefully with professors, seemingly unconcerned about their marks. Bullshit meters went off several times a day. The buzz in the production room was fascinating and infectious.
And I loved it.
But here’s the thing. It wasn’t personal. No one took offense. You could emphatically disagree with someone’s essay or argument, but they didn’t hold that against you, and you still went out for a round of British ales after the newspaper went to bed, and you needed to blow off steam.
That, my friends, is the beauty of journalism. A righteous anger percolates through many newsrooms but, at the end of the day, reporters are men and women with friends and families. They appreciate camaraderie and fellowship. The ones who hold grudges and take every slight to heart don’t really enjoy this world, and they aren’t very much fun.
I have strong opinions.** I like to push buttons, and I try to write sentences that are bold and provocative. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not open to debate, because I am. Through logic and reason, you can convince me that I’m wrong, and I promise not to take offense at strong words. If you call me an idiot, or fail to make a rebuttal, then I won’t take you seriously, or give your comment any more time than you took to write it.
But I like people who are passionate and alive, who think hard about this world, and their place in it. I like people who have opinions, who read widely and debate at the drop of a hat. I like it when readers agree with me, and I delight when others take exception, and teach me something I hadn’t considered.
So please feel free to add your voice. I won’t tell you not to come back even if I don’t like what you’re saying.
And by the way, that year at King’s was the best year of my life.
* The Globe & Mail calls itself a national newspaper, but largely ignores Atlantic Canada.
** I have strong opinions after I have my morning coffee. Before that, I have no personality at all.