“Oh, I edit, I don’t write,” is my standard response to any and all questions about what I do at The Michigan Daily. I fact-check and correct grammar; those are my two responsibilities. Sure, as a whole, our section is responsible for upholding the integrity of the paper by making sure we don’t print incorrect facts or misspelled names. But functionally, most of my time is spent Googling obscure City Council members and deleting commas. Our section is one big group of grammar nuts generally confused as to how people are unable to conduct basic Internet research, full of bitter loathing every time we’re forced to delete an Oxford comma (bite me, AP, they’re important) and extremely well-versed in the art of leaving snarky copy notes that end in a passive-aggressive question mark to make them seem like suggestions. We’re too eloquent to be all that fun at parties, and our desk tends to be one of the more quiet ones in the newsroom. And I love it.
But every once in awhile I look up from whatever 846th article about the deer cull I’m reading over and pause. I love it, but I also love the anonymity and the shield that accompanies it. I’m not the one with the opinions, and I’m not held accountable for anything. Second-handedly accountable, sure, but whatever misprint or other offense the public is up in arms about is always directed at the writer, not the editor. I avoid the dirty work and long hours and lounge in the safety net that comes from being able to sweep by and make everyone else’s opinions look pretty, and leave my own in their carefully guarded box. And the fact that I love that is a bit of an issue.
Because it’s not like I don’t have opinions—I just don’t like passing judgment on a subject until I feel as though I’ve been properly educated on it and have taken the time to think it through. I collect perspectives, hoarding as many different opinions as I can to try to get a glimpse of the bigger picture. But a side effect of this is a crippling uncertainty, a barrage of options that does not lend itself well to being pared down. Look at it this way: I had some two months’ notice to write this article and yet here I am, writing it two hours before it’s due, because it took me two months to properly formulate my opinions on not having opinions. And it’s not like the neutral is a valid option — I can’t decide if an “I don’t know” feels more like a cop-out or a neon dunce cap, although it most often best describes what I think. It’s not that I don’t have adequate information on the subject, but that I just don’t know which bit is most applicable to how I view the world. Needless to say, the gestation period tends to last longer than the duration of your average conversation, so I often find myself having to prematurely spit out half-formulated ideas that are graceless at best and offensive at worst.
But luckily, I don’t write. I think maybe I’ll just stick to my bubble and keep restructuring dangling participles in peace.