by Peter Gent
Four years ago when we launched the print edition of The Poor Print, the editorial team, then led by Jacob Warn, had an idea: we would publish anything anyone submitted.
But, we said, we would only do so if we could shape submissions with a strong editorial hand. We wanted concise, pithy, and intriguing articles. (Sadly, when we used this as an explanation for why we wouldn’t print one person’s work as it was when submitted, a member of the college decanal team was unable to keep a straight face – it was, perhaps, not the best moment for our pride.)
We wanted to be able to print people’s best ideas. Not, necessarily, the best of the library of ideas held in their beautiful minds, but the best articulation of any idea they thought interesting enough to submit to The Poor Print.
If they thought it was interesting, we said, so would others.
We worked to clean up the grammar, to cut unnecessary words and transitions, to make people’s ideas pop. We wanted you to read and never look away.
The output of students editing other students’ work – in free time – might not merit comparison with The Times, as was evident, perhaps, to readers of our biweekly publication. But we did our best to put others’ ideas into print.
There was an idea behind this. Discourse, we believed, is most valuable when we respond to the best form of people’s arguments. Little is gained by efforts to score points with critique of small errors or lack of precision. Discourse is served by imagining people’s best arguments and responding to what they would have said if they could have articulated their best thoughts.
Whether that is in the esteemed pages of The Poor Print, or the fleeting mob discourse that Twitter sometimes becomes, this remains something admirable: to see and critique the best of our opponents’ notions, and to let ourselves be moved by what they would have said, if they were able.
Peter Gent was Associate Editor of The Poor Print in 2015-2016.