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He Said; She Said

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With numerous public accusations and an intense focus on the media in recent months, the “Green & Gold” decided to reevaluate the true value of He Said; She Said journalism. Junior Hampton Henderson and senior Kelly Roth debate the pros and cons in an attempt to keep Wesleyan well-informed and up to date with the ever-changing times.

She Said:

Arguing against He Said; She Said journalism in the He Said; She Said section may seem wildly hypocritical, but if the “Green & Gold” insists on continuing to publish this editorial column, I must speak out against it.

I see this editorial style as a mere page-filler. It is neither news nor the highest quality entertainment or editorial article we could produce. For example, our Back Page has traditionally been the designated spot for humorous or satirical pieces. Let us leave the entertainment there; the main priority of any newspaper should be to inform, not to entertain or amuse. Therefore, the first few pages of any newspaper should be filled with the most recent news stories and the most significant or culturally-relevant features.

For this issue, some topic ideas suggested were “Marvel vs. DC” and “How You Slice Your Sandwich Halves.” Past subjects have included “Thin Mints vs. Samoas” and “Fake Christmas Trees vs. Real Christmas Trees.” I believe these articles have been an embarrassment to the very name of journalism.

We do not need to take up precious space in our school newspaper with these trivial rivalries. We could be reporting on students’ academic concerns or the school board’s latest decisions or improvements. Furthermore, even if the issue being debated is a worthy matter, such as the pros and cons of the new 2018 tax bill, the nature of this editorial style is still biased.

Though both disputants have an equal opportunity to argue their side, the two representatives typically have extremely skewed opinions. Even with quotes from outside sources, their arguments are overexaggerated and disproportionate. He Said; She Said authors regularly commit false appeal, meaning they intentionally seek out heavily-prejudiced supporters whose quotes solely support the journalist’s exaggerated claims, which is a serious argument fallacy. One side will often blow their points out of proportion and ignore the rebuttal of their opponent completely.

Senior Erin McConnell said she has “never read a compelling argument” in the He Said; She Said section, as the disputants tend to “oversimplify both sides and go straight for the hyperbolic, emotional appeal.”

While editorial pieces are supposed to include the columnist’s opinion, an argumentative piece should also include fact, one critical element easily left out of these types of articles. No matter what points each arguer makes, the style of writing still influences the reader. He Said; She Said journalism is generally more focused on winning the argument rather than making solid, sound points about the topic overall.

While English Department Chair Joe Tamel has no strong feelings for or against these articles, he said, “The writers of He Said; She Said would fail my AP Seminar class because statements given are usually illogical or invalid. I enjoy reading [He Said; She Said articles] for entertainment and a good laugh, but I don’t take them seriously.”

Many He Said; She Said writers institute the red herring fallacy, which means they introduce an irrelevant topic to distract the reader or their opponent from the issue at hand. This fallacy is easiest to spot and mainly seen at presidential debates. Though this error can be unintentional, it still contributes to the invalidity of the journalistic style as a whole.

Also, only two opinions are represented, yet there are almost always more than two sides to an issue. A better alternative to this piece would be having one writer arguing all sides of the issue, qualifying and opposing him or herself. The case made would be substantially more impactful than two people more focused on verbally assaulting each other than actually addressing the issue.

This form of editorial is more like a frivolous political debate, full of low blows and loads of argument fallacies, than an actual intelligent deliberation. Specifically, the ad hominem attack, which is the fallacy of attacking your opponent instead of addressing the issue, as I mentioned before, renders He Said; She Said pieces invalid as reliable sources of information.

The straw man fallacy, which is oversimplifying, generalizing or stereotyping your opponent, is also instituted and leads to false balance in a piece. This type of journalism in general tends to force false balance, which according to Wikipedia is “a media bias in which journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports.”

In colloquial terms, false balance is when writers tend to overexaggerate or underexaggerate points in order to directly oppose the contrasting claims of their rival. It also includes omission of significant facts that would make or break an argument. A side arguing “pro” for an issue may not even address the main concern of the “con” side because there are not any good points to combat that point, once again causing false equivalency. False balance is a common argument flaw that contributes to the circulation of misinformation and disproportionate claims.

A major problem with false equivalency in this specific style of journalism is that these sources of bias can also be included, ironically, in an attempt to avoid bias. Making arguments equal does not mean altering points to make them proportionate to each other; it means representing each point in proportion to how relative it is to your overall claims.

Another major flaw in He Said; She Said journalism is that the featured journalists are not required to have any expertise on the issue at hand. Any common journalist could be assigned to either side and consequently forced to seek evidence supporting their side instead of researching all parts of the topic.

Media critic and writer of “PressThink” Jay Rosen said, “My complaint is not the usual one that you probably get: biased reporting. No. This is He Said, She Said reporting, one of the lowest forms of journalism in existence.”

Though these articles can be sources of entertainment and can be used to fill up extra pages, He Said; She Said is dwindling on a global scale and needs to be cut out from the “Green & Gold” once and for all.

He Said:

For years, He Said; She Said has been a staple of the “Green & Gold.” My opponent would have you believe that the “He Said; She Said” article of every issue is “biased” and “a page-filler.” There is absolutely no possibility that the writing staff of the “Green & Gold” could have any bias in writing He Said; She Said. The whole concept of He Said; She Said is to showcase two opposing viewpoints and respectfully, yet firmly, argue why one is better than the other. And, as we all know, there are always only two solutions to any given problem. We live in a black and white world. There is no room for grey area. You are either with us or against us. There are no in-betweens. Everyone knows that in every situation one side is completely infallible and the other is flaming hot garbage.

One of the main reasons students read “He Said; She Said” is because it addresses real issues that students care about.  I mean, just look at the hard-hitting, thought-provoking pieces we’ve had so far this year. Take the Larner-Zetzsche debate of “Fake vs. Real Christmas Trees.” Wesleyan students were waiting with baited breath for the latest issue of the “Green & Gold” to come out so they could finally know how to decorate their houses for Christmas.

Of course, who could forget my own debate with the master wordsmith Sophie Zetzsche over whether or not students should go trick-or-treating or go to Halloween parties? I don’t know about Ms. Zetzsche, but I have had scores upon scores of students come up to me in the hallway and thank me for helping them decide the issue that was dominating their life. These dilemmas that the writers here at the “Green & Gold” address are always prevalent school-wide and would never appeal to only a small minority of people or function as a giant inside joke for the journalism class and a few others to enjoy.

My opponent, Ms. Roth, may try to convince you that our argumentative styles and tactics are flawed and that we focus more on winning the argument than making solid points for one side and addressing the shortcomings of the other. To that, I say, “How dare you?” She tries to trick the reader into believing that she is smart and should be believed by referring to these hoaxes called “argumentative fallacies.” You can’t fool us with your big words, Kelly. We’re better than that.

She talks about something called an “ad hominem attack” which, in all honesty, sounds made up to me. But what I do know is that Kelly is a weak, selfish writer that only ever spends her time libeling others and never informing the public.

Then, she also includes something called a “red herring.” I have no idea what a fish has to do with anything, but it is very unprofessional to try to turn around and completely change the topic like that.

I have no idea what a “false appeal” is and I have no intention to learn. I asked junior Will Parrish, a varsity cross-country runner, I might add, his opinion on He Said; She Said, and he said, “Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool.”

Lastly, Kelly goes into some weird tangent about scarecrows, mentioning a “straw man.” I have no idea what agriculture has to do with anything, but what I do know is that Ms. Kelly Roth hates considering others’ opinions and never wants to have an open debate about important issues.

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