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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

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In Praise of Editors

Several weeks ago, I sat through a play that was three hours long, with no intermission. The friend I went with joked that the omission must have been a strategic decision on the director's part, because if they had let us out, surely nobody would have come back in. I didn't blame the playwright. She was obviously impassioned about the subject matter, and assumed that everyone else would be, too. Maybe she had exercised great restraint in cutting it back from five or six hours. But at some point, someone should have intervened.

May 13, 2012
 
 

Several weeks ago, I sat through a play that was three hours long, with no intermission. The friend I went with joked that the omission must have been a strategic decision on the director's part, because if they had let us out, surely nobody would have come back in.

I didn't blame the playwright. She was obviously impassioned about the subject matter, and assumed that everyone else would be, too. Maybe she had exercised great restraint in cutting it back from five or six hours. But at some point, someone should have intervened.

None of us can see ourselves accurately. This is why we count on our friends to let us know about the spinach on our teeth, the hanging slip; and on a director or producer to suggest that we may wish to streamline the script a bit more.

And we bloggers count on our editors to point out when we have violated the tenets of responsible posting and civilized discourse.

Yes, I am talking about Naomi Schaefer Riley.

Better people than I have written more eloquently about the off-the-wall post that resulted in her firing, so I won't rehash that. What I do want to focus on is a paragraph in the editors's note that explained the decision:

"Since Brainstorm was created five years ago, we have sought out bloggers representing a range of intellectual and political views, and we have allowed them broad freedom in topics and approach. As part of that freedom, Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley’s post was not reviewed until after it was posted."

I am very glad IHE doesn't operate that way, because several months ago I wrote a post that, if it had gone up as initially written, would probably have gotten me sacked, too.

I like to think of myself as fairly reasonable and tolerant (I know, everyone likes to think of themselves that way), but there is a blogger and academic whose writing enrages me. Even reading his name makes me feel queasy. Usually I just avoid his posts, but some information surfaced about his past real-life behavior that gave me palpitations.

In response, I composed what I believed was a thoughtful post outlining the issue and identifying questions it raised for academics. A few hours after I sent it in, I received a message from Scott pointing out that I had made a) some unsupported, troublesome assertions, and b) a Freudian slip that made it seem that I was denigrating the institution where he works.

It took two more drafts before we were both satisfied with the post, and looking back I am hugely grateful for the intervention.

And having recently overslept, dressed quickly and dashed to work in mismatched pumps that I then had to wear to a party, I wish fervently that I had a good editor for my real life, as well.

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