Humor Belongs on the Back Page

Written by Hannah Adkinson

The majority of the editorials in last week’s issue of The Megaphone (Issue 10) demonstrated an unfortunate increase in the use of a sarcastic, dismissive writing style that makes light of serious issues and appears to be a poorly placed attempt at humor. As a result, four of the six editorials read like a crowd of back-page hopefuls who, assigned to tackling more serious subject matter, have used inappropriately sarcastic writing styles in an attempt to prove that they do, in fact, belong in the “Humor and Satire” section. I find these sarcasm levels inappropriate for a serious, collegiate publication that, as editors Brennan Peel and Lori Higginbotham recently noted, is a century-long Southwestern tradition that reaches a wider audience in the Georgetown community than just our campus, and helps shape outside opinion of our university.

Notable exceptions are Regan Lemley’s well-reasoned critical examination of the practice of supplying contraception to middle school students and Vickie Valadez’s provocative piece on racism at Southwestern. Valadez is a skilled satirist who produces quality writing, humorous and otherwise, and has a clear idea of the boundary between clever, witty back-page articles and the more serious tone required for a weighty editorial about the sensitive issue of race.

Unfortunately, the four remaining articles in this issue’s editorial section do not live up the impressive standard set by Valadez and Lemley. The editorials by Sam Marsh and Joshua A. Hughes, concerning wealthy Americans and liberal arts education respectively, are so fraught with contradictory statements and apparent attempts at sarcasm that their messages are lost in the chaos; even after a second reading, I was left with no clear sense of what they intended to convey.

Additionally, I felt that the photograph accompanying Caitlyn Buckley’s editorial on the recent abduction attempts—a photograph showing a female SU student “cowering under her desk”—was intended to bring humor to the issue. As a female SU student who has felt vulnerable since the attacks, I do not see the humor in a caricature of female fear and vulnerability. The issue has affected both male and female students on campus, has, as Buckley noted, decreased the overall feeling of safety, and therefore deserves a more serious treatment.

I take particular issue with the editorial “Technology will keep us together”, by Hannah Yterdal. Aside from her consistently unprofessional diction—“mommy hug”, “stupid”, “butts”, —the article is unorganized and shallow in its analysis. She glosses over the arguments she wishes to counter with an immature “blah, blah, blah” rather than taking the time to examine them in greater detail. She alludes to “these anti-development people” without providing a clear idea of to whom she refers, and gives no concrete example of this supposedly rampant ideology anywhere in her piece.

Most disturbing in Yterdal’s editorial is her bizarre side-note stating that, “English is ‘butchered’ the most by communities with little or no access” to technology and resources. She does not explain this disturbing comment any further, and the reader is left to conclude that she is referring to the “Harlem ghetto-speak” she mentioned in the previous paragraph. I found this statement very problematic and inconsistent with her previous assertion that “no matter where our language goes… it will still be beautiful.” It is clear that Yterdal does not consider the speech patterns of the lower classes to be beautiful, but rather “butchered” and worthy only of scorn. Racism—and classism, for that matter—are indeed alive and well at SU.

If The Megaphone is interested in regaining its ever-declining readership and credibility as the official student newspaper, the editors should require that the content of its opinion section be more serious and less sarcastic. If not, readers with a thirst for more thoughtful coverage will continue to turn to alternative publications such as the Kazoo, and The Megaphone will largely a remain a source of derisive laughs and disappointing journalism.

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6 Responses to Humor Belongs on the Back Page

  1. Lane Hill says:

    I really want to comment on this, but not as Mr. Web Editor. More of myself, just Lane Hill. So, I’ll throw in the warning that this is my opinion, and not representative of the Megaphone staff. Just little old me. So send any comments to me, or just reply on here.

    I think Humor should work on the opinion pages, even though there are serious issues. There are a lot of serious issues and a lot of trauma in the world – why can’t we laugh at this? I mean, I understand, as so do many people that there is a lot of boundaries. I wouldn’t laugh if someone made a dead baby joke (which that recent activity, in my opinion, was jerkish and very sophomoric), and I had dead brother, or similar. But some things, should be laughed at! It’s a way of getting over trauma, and a way to relieve stress. While humor shouldn’t be in other sections of the paper, Opinions is probably the only section that allows the writer to write like themselves – Humor & Satire makes them be funny. All the other ones are very cutthroat and strict, if you can believe it. Opinions allows people to view their opinions, no matter how confusing and contradictory they are. Perhaps they don’t have a certain opinion?

    As for the whole picking Yterdal, is that…well, it’s her opinion, and it’s her way of writing style. We’re not all brilliant writers, and in fact, some of us aren’t well versed in the ways of style writing, and some of us have very not mainstream and not cuddly opinions. Once again, I don’t believe we should restrict the voices of our writers, no matter how absurd or extreme their opinion is – isn’t that censorship? I don’t agree with her points of view, to be honest, but it’s still her opinion.

    Finally, to your last point is this – are you people (somehow build the Kazoo up to be a Megaphone substitute even though it’s not really journalistic), so insecure about it that you must plug it with every anti-Megaphone letter you send? Even if I wasn’t a the Web Editor, a relatively low level position, I’d still feel a bit miffed.

    I mean, it’s something if the Kazoo was actually a newspaper, but it’s not! There is no news – it’s more or less an alternative version of an opinionated literary magazine.

    And yet even when we hand out an olive branch, we get rabid letters about how we’re unprofessional. What do you want us to do? Resort to pictures of lips that are apparently artistic? We’re a newspaper. You’re a literary pamphlet, essentially. We’re apples and oranges – we should be able to live in harmony, yet we can’t.

    Reading the back issues of the Megaphone, I realized something. There are two constants when it comes to the Megaphone and SU. People will always complain about the food, and people will always complain about the quality of the Megaphone.

    I hope a meaningful dialogue comes out of this.
    -Lane

  2. Aaron Thomsen says:

    Though I can’t comment on some of the finer points of her argument, I sympathize with Hannah.

    Lane, your reaction doesn’t surprise me. As far as I am aware, no one likes feeling attacked or derided. It would be nice if the Megaphone would keep this in mind, and provide recourse to the people and groups it scrutinizes, at least in the form of an interview.

    In this instance, the issue of “censorship” has not arisen. No one has suggested restricting the “voice” of the Megaphone writers; rather, Hannah has criticized the lack of substance, organization, and research that ought to accompany well-written articles. I am disappointed that you, Lane, a representative of the Megaphone in spite of your disclaimer, so easily dismiss Hannah’s critique of the quality of writing produced by some members of the Megaphone staff. Ms. Yterdal’s articles, particularly, fall far short of a journalistic standard that one ought to expect from college writers. Staying true to one’s values and opinions does not conflict with developing social awareness, tact, and an instinct for the appropriate application of “humor.”

    Demanding more professionalism from the Megaphone staff writers isn’t censorship, it’s a civic responsibility. I second Hannah Adkison’s call to raise the bar.

  3. Lane Hill says:

    It was wrong for me to comment on this, as I am a representative to the Megaphone. I wanted to delete my original comment, but it’s too late to do that – I’m not a fan of deleting things that have already been said, whether they are right or wrong, as I believe in the sanctity of public discourse.

    I was too quick in chastising this article, however, and for that, I apologize.

    More importantly, something should be said that yes, she is right that there should be a higher standard in writing. We do have writing workshops. However, we learn to work with what we are dealing with.

    Signing off, as this is crunch time, and I am doing all but working on things that get to be done.
    -Lane

  4. Aaron Thomsen says:

    Lane, you’re pretty awesome. Good luck with finals.

  5. Aaron Thomsen says:

    Sorry for calling you a girl that one time.

  6. Lane Hill says:

    Thanks. Good luck with finals, too.

    Hahaha, it’s alright. All water under the bridge, anyways. :P

    Back to work!

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