This is the letter I just fired off to David Johnston of the Gazette for the rather poor working of this particular article: Westmount Mini-war
A bit hyperbolic don’t you think? I think what’s going on in Bahrain, Libya or Yemen right now qualifies as a ‘mini-war’. Ask an Iraqi or an Afghani what war is like and you’ll be surprised to learn there’s usually very little talk of burying hockey rinks or ameliorating community services.
From my experience, debates of this nature during war time are typically interrupted by massive explosions, choking via chemical gas and the constant, droning rhythms of machine gun fire.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want to be taken seriously – and trust me when I say this applies to the Gazette as a whole – you can’t keep submitting ridiculous headlines and bylines like this. It’s not the first time I’ve written to complain about your paper’s poor (or exploitative) command of the English language, but I’ve typically been given the run-around. A lot of ‘it’s not my decision, pass the buck, I’m not responsible etc etc’.
The Gazette likes to think it is a Montréal institution, and it should be. But as long as it feeds the innate human desire for scandal and uses the worst kind of Fox News rhetoric to convey information, it will remain a joke. A bad joke, one which brings shame and humiliation to the entirety of the local Anglophone population.
We need a newspaper of record, one which is taken seriously. But more and more I see a scandal rag with an editorial board taking cues from Hearst’s portrayal of the Spanish-American War.
With utmost sincerity,
Taylor C. Noakes
And here is Mr. Johnston’s response:
Hello Mr. Noakes:
Thank you for your letter. I couldn’t agree with you more. You might not know that writers don’t write their own headlines. That’s a job for copy editors and, like writers, they have good days and bad days, good habits and bad habits. I also think that war metaphors are greatly overused in our business – and as you say, they are particularly silly and inappropriate these days, given what we are seeing in the Middle East. I’m going to talk to the senior editors here and see if we can start making it a policy not to use the word war so loosely.
Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with this response. I think we have a friend on the inside!