Lately, the Asper family has drawn much fire for their national editorial policy. For those who enjoy marathon spelunking and have recently returned to the surface, or for some other baffling reason haven’t heard about this, the situation is thus: some guy owns a bunch of newspapers, and wants 14 of the major daily ones to run a national editorial from on high each week. (He had originally hoped to publish three a week!)
At first glance, it seems rather simple—someone wants to broadcast their opinion as far as their means allow. No problem, right?
Did the Aspers limit themselves to broadcasting their own preferred messages, there would be none. However, they have stipulated that no other editorials may contradict said messages, which constitute CanWest Global’s “coherent national editorial policy.” It is this that attracts so much criticism. But I think critics are missing a great potential upside: the birth of a new form of widely published and highly skilled essay writing.
Of course, this won’t happen right away. It will take a few years for the restrictions and off-limits topics to build to a point where Asper-editorializing becomes an art form. For now, we’re limited to pro-Israeli, pro-Liberal and pro-business polemic, but soon enough the pens in Winnipeg will tire of matters political, and address themselves to issues of style and meaning. Where once one could not address middle-Eastern land disputes without referring to Palestinian terrorism, now one would also have to describe it in a rigorous format of three anapests (a triple metrical foot of two unstressed syllables to a stressed one: da-da-dum) and an amphibrach (a stressed foot flanked by unstressed feet: da-dum-da) to each line.
But, beyond stylistic concerns, the editorial writer will become so much more than a mere opinionated scribbler. With comprehensive volumes of journalistprudence (if you will pardon the jurisprudence pun) to refer to, every new development in the world, every new fashion and event, could be seen through the Asper lens.
But who will apply these rules? In this new realm of stare decisis (the judicial principle of deciding things according to precedent) opinionating, who will be the wig-clad judges passing sentence on which columns are allowed? Unfortunately, we all know the answer, and in this manner alone will the editorials suffer poor comparison with their legal cousins.
Still, this can only add to the degree of skill required for a good Asper-torial. While it’s true no reasonable person might expect any good works to emerge from this form, when pushed to its limits, it offers the potential for truly impressive prose. For if any writer could ever express themselves thoughtfully and coherently under such restrictions, the result would be well worth reading.
Have something that really ticks you off? Put it in a full nelson. Send us a 500 word rant on the topic of your choice.