October 29 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 33  

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Ducking controversy not part of our job

From the Far Lane
Emmett Macfarlane


Western students have direct physical access to something no other university students in Canada have: the only daily student newspaper in the country.

That being said, we try to push the envelope, both in our attempts to inform and in our attempts to amuse. Either way, sometimes "pushing the envelope" causes someone offense, be it shock, moral indignation or outright anger.

And while we welcome comments, questions or complaints, it would be irresponsible of us to stop testing the boundaries of what is politically correct or morally acceptable.

Whether we piss off officials in the faculty of arts for reporting on a group of film studies professors leaving over the summer and having the audacity to use the word "scandal" or run a picture of slit wrists on the cover along with a story about Trent's "Suicide Week," we're not going to apologize.

The fact we didn't have to use the word scandal or that we didn't need to run the picture is irrelevant.

Granted, Trent's "Suicide Week" has little to do with suicide, but the picture illustrated a reality all its own.

Sure, we took the opportunity to take a jab at Trent students by writing a caption that said, "You'd commit suicide too if you went to Trent." Again, it was unnecessary, but I'd bet most people laughed.

Someone argued that if we were doing a serious feature about suicide then the picture might be appropriate, but because we made a joke we were out of line.

That's a stupid argument. Unless you're going to seriously examine a touchy topic, you have to avoid it? Some of the most poignant messages are made with humour.

Case in point: we ran an editorial cartoon last month about censorship. There was a pro-Palestinian Middle East speaker on campus and some students didn't think he should have been invited. Our ed cartoon depicted one person objecting to the policies of Israel and another calling her an anti-Semite.

We received an angry response and ironically, we were called anti-Semitic. But we were making a point about emotions and censorship, which was quickly lost in an emotional reaction that called for us to be censored. (And for the record, The Gazette has never taken a position on the Middle East conflict. We are neither pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel. Pro-Israel speaker Daniel Pipes came last year and many said he shouldn't have been allowed and they were just as wrong).

In the most general terms, if we think we can make a point, make someone laugh or just make someone pick up the paper, we won't hesitate to cause controversy. Just thought I'd let you know.




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