True life: I'm a Targum columnist
Warning: This article is mostly false but would appear to be mostly true.
Two weeks ago, a staff writer for The Daily Targum gave a thorough trashing of Targum columnists. His Oct. 26 column, "Rules for reading Targum columns," presented 12 rules for readers to follow when reading an article. However, like most Targum stories, his piece was overly vague and general. While many of his points were very accurate, he did not give much analysis on why columnists behave the way they do. In addition, the author failed to address the real issue at hand: No one ever reads the daily columns. So, I thought I should give real "insider" information about myself and other columnists to help remedy this situation.
I initially launched this column with the sole intention of reaching Tom Savage status. Sadly, this has not happened, as quite the opposite has occurred. Contrary to popular belief, writing for The Daily Targum is not sexy — even with a handsome picture accompanying each article. It actually decreases your status and popularity. The only people who read the editorial section are other columnists, bored alumni from the Midwest and political/religious factions. For everyone else, this page is usually folded into a square for the purposes of in-class Sudoku and crossword puzzles. So, why doesn't anyone read the columns on the opinions page?
I believe the decline in readership is due to the lack of connection between the author and the reader. Articles are seen as wholly irrelevant, boring or long-winded (much like this one). This creates an attitude in which no one bothers to read the opinions section in the first place. This article seeks to bridge this disconnect with the audience. By giving a little insight about "columnist culture," I hope to increase readership by allowing the student body to empathize with Targum columnists. Parsing through the opinions section can often be a difficult task, especially when there are crossword puzzles urging you to keep it moving. To counter this problem, I have outlined below a few things you should know about us:
1. Most columnists are either picked up off the street or write for the Johnsonville Press (sometimes both). This is why every article is plagued with grammatical errors and incoherent logic. Sometimes, we will resort to numbers and bullet points, because we cannot express our ideas in a persuasive five-paragraph essay. The author would suggest that "the smartest students are too busy to spend their time writing an extra 900-word essay a week" and the Targum accepts "those who are available." This is false. Individuals who have any sense of pride or self-respect do not want themselves associated with The Daily Targum. The newspaper finds columnists who have lower standards than itself, because qualified writers actually know what's best for their future. Thus, you get shameless students who have no career aspirations in life (probably a future teacher) and do not have the intellectual capacity to take on complex issues. Sometimes it seems that our best material comes from talking about ourselves.
2. Columnists are very arrogant, pompous, and — as one grad student called me — self-aggrandizing. This is one correct point the author made in his article. We look for you to call us names and write about it in Medium personals. Feedback, even if it's negative, only re-affirms our own self worth (tactics taken from Westboro Baptist Church). In fact, the "columnist culture" even has a hierarchy of ranking feedback. The more time the reader expends on crafting a response, the more fulfilled we feel as columnists. To put this in perspective, here is the hierarchy in ascending order of importance:
Student response on The Daily Targum Web site: They may or may not have actually read the article, but even a few keystrokes adds a false sense of credibility. Not bad.
The e-mail response: Length of response, identity of author (90-year-old alumnus is usually a bad sign) and logic of argument either means the respondent has absolutely no life or the columnist has somehow struck a cord. Either way, each e-mail is a pang of pride in the stomach of a narcissistic writer hungry for responses.
The letter response in the newspaper: This is the ultimate accomplishment for the columnist. Pejorative remarks about the columnist's family, various ad hominem attacks and blatantly false statements cannot detract from the fact that someone spent several minutes of their life to combat an article that probably had little merit to begin with. Job well done. The columnist can go back into hibernation for two weeks and plot their next offensive assault.
These are just general facts about columnists. Now I will get into specifics:
3. Some columns will be dedicated to promoting President Barack Obama and his public health care option. This is nothing but a ploy by the vast right-wing conspiracy. The author will incessantly write about the benefits of "O-care," until people are completely resentful of the public option. Students get so tired of hearing the same bad arguments that they reject the issue out of spite. Do not let these shameless Fox News tactics of reverse psychology stop you from reading the opinions section.
4. Any updates on student government, on the other hand, are attempts by the left-wing conspiracy to take over the media outlet. They too cannot be trusted. Don't be fooled by what appears to be an even-handed approach by students who themselves participate in student government; they are out to justify their hidden motive to legalize marijuana, allow limitless immigrants to cross the border and socialize America. Be wary of articles promoting programs such as "What's on Your Mind Month," as it is part of their plan for total control.
5. Authors will use ambiguous language to compensate for bad writing (see rule 1), prove their own self-importance (see rule 2) and promote backwards agendas. These few refuse to accept society's immoral behavior and are consciously fighting this culture via thesaurus.com (or shift F7). Sometimes they will give their views on quite personal topics, like "family," where they are referring to a white Christian family with 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and a Ford in the driveway. Anything else, of course, is blasphemous. The author will try to create an intellectual argument by using GRE prep words, when in reality, they are merely trying to pull the reader back into the 1800s mindset. It's important to give these columnists a break, as they will eventually accept their place on the University food chain and fall victim to rule No. 4.
6. Yeah, I do not know why there is a column on the Italy Study Abroad program either. I considered starting one to reflect on my trip to the Phillipines, but realized no one wanted to hear about my escapades into cock fighting and sex trafficking.
7. Columns that critique society usually stem from bad personal experiences. That is why most of them are written in firsthand accounts. Generalizations are made about technology, University life or men. These social commentaries are for venting purposes only; in which, I cannot stress enough the importance of giving us feedback. We all leave our e-mails at the bottom for a reason. We use you — the reader — as a personal psychologist to tell us that society is not as backwards as our experiences would suggest.
Hopefully, this has given you a greater understanding of the "columnist culture." It's not always about sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. So, as you approach your next column, keep these considerations in mind. It will make your Daily Targum experience that much more unfulfilled.
Brian Canares is a Rutgers College senior majoring in history and political science. He is also a future teacher. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.