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From summer camps to opinion editor

Hello, my name is Sebastian Meyer and I will be your opinion editor.

Why on earth would I want to have this job, you ask? Funny you mention that, as one of my professors asked me this very question and I did not know how to answer it at first.

It is definitely not the money one gets paid doing this job (trust me on that one) or the hours (although the actual minutes are pretty good), nor is it the prospect of having to tell somebody that their letter or column will not be published, and then having to justify this for hours, even though it is the worst piece of writing ever composed by human kind or expresses views that are clearly legally and morally wrong. These things happen on occasion.

I thought about this for quite a while before I realized that in a way, I have been doing this job for a long time already.

About eight years ago (boy, am I getting old?), I started going on trips all over Europe with youth groups as a camp counselor. I was usually debating things with people all the time. Be it at the beach, or while on some site-seeing trip. I was always involved in some sort of discussion.

Oh great, you’re probably thinking now, he is a know-it-all.

No, not really, and that is precisely why I applied for this job.

As camp counselor, I often had to step in and help smooth over conflicts that had escalated, but usually I was more interested in seeing how the discussion developed as I would always learn something myself, as well.

That really is what an opinion editors job should be. Stay out of the way and let people express their views as they please, unless they cross the line where it becomes ugly.

If you read something in this paper, by all means, disagree with it. There should be an open exchange of ideas.

This exchange should be constructive though. By writing a letter with the intent of telling me what an idiot I am (or any other person for that matter), nobody will learn to understand the point of view that is presented better.

There is also a limit of how many letters can be published. This has to do with the obvious space restrictions as well as the quantity of letters written by one person.

It would be unfair to publish several letters written by one person, no matter how well founded the criticisms or views expressed in the letters are, while other readers’ letters are not being published at all.

For this reason we have the feedback system for all our stories on our web page

What has been a problem on these boards lately is how people posting messages respond to each other. It has not exactly been in a factual, constructive way, but has often resorted to name calling and rants that did not add anything to the discussion.

This has to change and we are currently trying to put a set of rules in place (you’ll hear in the paper as soon as possible) in order to enforce a more civilized and productive discussion without censoring anything.

Until then, debate away, but do so in a way that is not insulting or demeaning for the other people on the boards.

Let’s have an open discussion this summer, be it through letters or feedback on the Web page. Let’s have some fun with it, but also do it in a constructive way.

Sebastian Meyer is a Junior and The Oracle Opinion