Volume 95, Issue 97

Tuesday, April 9, 2002
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Fighting to sway opinions

U8, you're great

Pray for peace in the Middle East

Useless drivel?

Recombobulator: the finale

Opinions: the year in review

What I've learned...

The mountains and the valleys

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Opinions: the year in review

One hundred and ninety-three letters ago, I sat down at my desk for what I presumed would be, and ultimately was, a bumpy, but enjoyable, year of selecting and editing letters to the editor.

For your enjoyment, I've crunched some numbers and come up with a list of the top three letter topics. I'll give out the bronze, silver and gold medals and then a little year in review analysis.

Luke Atkins, your "W"-boys and "W"-girls calendars were a hotly-contested and highly-entertaining topic. Altogether, 14 letters contemplating the implications of the arguably racy calendars went to print – enough to earn the bronze medal.

Were the calendars sexist? Did they further Western's "pretty people" image? Was the donation of the profits to a firefighter charity a well-thought out PR move or did Atkins really have his heart in the right place?

No strong consensus was ever reached on any of those questions, but it made for an interesting debate, proving once again that people love to talk about boobies and pee-pees.

In second place, we have my favourite – the 'let me tell you why I hate The Gazette' letters. Fifteen in all, each providing constructive criticism on everything from the 'derogatory' use of the word 'gypped' to the Minto comic depicting Jesus with a sex life. It's important for any newspaper to voice its readers' criticisms and printing the letters was my pleasure.

The gold medal winner should come as no surprise to anyone – terrorism and Sept. 11. A total of 65 letters related to this topic were printed. That's one third of the year's entire letter total. I won't even begin to get into what they talked about, so we'll just say that emotions ran incredibly high and selecting which letters to print was extremely difficult.

Two statistics regarding this year's letters really grabbed my attention.

First, 58 per cent of all letters were written in response to other letters or articles. That suggests to me that most students would rather try to shoot down someone else's arguments than present their own.

Keep in mind that no person can present all aspects of a debate in 300 words. Most contributors seemed to see this limitation as an opportunity to appear before all of Western as brilliant intellectuals, pointing out what the previous author had neglected to mention.

Working in Opinions can at times be a bit depressing. This should give you a good idea of why: of the 193 letters printed, only two – that's right two – were positive!

Is the Western community overwhelmingly unsatisfied or depressed?

I'd like to believe we're pointing out our shortfalls in the hope that through discussion will come improvement.

On the other hand, however, I've come to believe we live in a culture of complaint, wherein egos thrive on putting down other people and their ideas, rather than address the shortcomings of ourselves and our ideas.

Sad, really.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002