Monday, April 03, 2006

Some Days - Wearing my Publisher's Hat

One of the hats I wear around here is that of publisher for our Full Circle newsletter, a position that allows me to work with some wonderful Pagan writers. Most days that's a fun job. On other days, it's a challenging job. Today it was a challenge.

One of our writers submitted a piece on abortion and the law, which just would not work for us. My job is to tell her why that is and to give her some ways to refashion her piece to meet our needs without interfering too much. That's always a fine line. One wants to respect another writer's skills, even when suggesting a change of direction or tone. While I remind our writers about the guidelines we have here at FCE, I have to set my own boundaries. Anything I do at FCE is volunteer work, and my time is limited.

Here is what I wrote to her today:

Dear X,

Below you will find the section of the newsletter you wrote for us which we are not going to use in the April edition. [Note: I have not included her piece here. It's not right to quote another's writer's work, especially a draft, without their express permission]. While this article is intelligently and passionately written, it is not right for FCE. As you know, as a non-profit we do not take stands on political issues, and this piece, as currently written, is a political editorial, not a news item or an ethical think piece. So, while I personally agree with your conclusions, I cannot include this piece in our newsletter.

If you wish, re-write it as a fact piece, and include notes about those who might be on the other side of this issue i.e. those who feel that abortion is too easy to get or who would like to see more birth control and sex ed available for younger people, as well as those who work to help victims of incest and rape, then we can reconsider publishing this. You can include your questions, as well, but you'll need to rewrite them in such as way so that you aren't using an outraged tone which already gives the reader the "right" answers. (And by the way an outraged tone, while perfectly understandable, is not always the most convincing tone to use and can quickly pall, even when preaching to the choir. In this case, the opinions of our readers vary on a woman's right to choose, especially in the third trimester.) (1)

Also: Include also questions that lawmakers themselves considered such as "What are the rights of parents in such cases"? Consider also: "What is the responsibility of the state in cases where the parents are clearly not considering the best interests of the child" and lastly, "What are the best interests of any pregnant child?".

Other notes: The way the piece reads is at risk for reading like a men vs. women piece, and that's not always where this issue lands. We have good men on the side of young victims, and it's important to note that. You also want to note what's being done that is hopeful, empowering and progressive - the essay as written ends on a rather hopeless/helpless tone, which does nothing to make our readers want to get up and change things.

It's easy to be against something. The hard part is to decide what we stand for, and write about that. Those are the writings that inspire people to action.

The point of any good commentary is to make the readers think, not to make them think like us. Stick to the facts, write a bit more subtly, and let the readers make up their own minds. (2)

You could also re-write it, not as an political argument but as an ethical think piece which looks at all sides and considers the history of this issue. It's an illusion to believe that there are two sides to every single issue, (other than fundamentalist fanatics, who really wants young girls to bear the childen of rape or incest?) however, we can ask ourselves what history teaches us about this issue(especially in the cases of genocidal war rapes, where women have shown amazing courage and compassion for each other). Ask, from an Earthwise perspective, what a humane society can and would do?

You know, Beltane is a very good time to think about sex and all it's implications. In fact, we could do a sex issue for May which is quite provocative, overall, and include this piece in it. If that is the case, I will need your help and S's help in finding links for that. As you know, our time to work on the May issue is limited, as I am moving.

To conclude: if you don't wish to change this piece for the May issue or do a sex issue at all, that's fine. In that case, you might wish to flesh it out this think piece, and submit it to New Witch or a feminist magazine.

Again don't feel oblidged, but in that case let's drop it. As you know, I am moving, and this is all the help I can currently give.

All good things,

Publisher, FCE Monthly Newsletter

1) I frankly doubt that any of our people believe that an incest or rape victim should bear her abuser's child, but we can ask them what should be done for the mothers and children that are born and to the abuser's (look to Serbian and Croatia for examples) and how we can prevent this from occurring in the first place.

(2) At the end, encourage them to contact their representatives and take those (clear, direct) actions which seem right to them, if they wish to make their voices known.

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