Paul Greenberg

Dear Fellow Opinionator,

It was wholly a pleasure to get the word from you that the New York Times is now offering videos under the title, "Sightlines, an Op-Ed Series." That's good news, since the pictures have to be an improvement over the prose in the Times' editorials. (Stifle yawn here.)

"I would be interested to read your reactions," you invite. Here's mine: I knew it would come to this. Why settle for mere words when we, too, can do video? Words, shmords, where's my Camcorder?

It's said the latest vogue in Hollywood is to eliminate the pictures from movies and just project the dialogue on a flat, readable, widely circulated surface. It's now claimed that words can have an even more powerful effect than pictures, that they can lead to wisdom, beauty, reverence, ecstasy, even humility. Imagine that. One auteur was heard to say that a single word is worth a thousand pictures - if it's the right word. There might be an idea in all that. But be warned: This approach may catch on only in a literate society.

Enough kidding. Our problem in this opinionating business - well, our big problem - isn't any lack of technology. The stuff is everywhere and seems to be upgraded daily, or at least faster than a technologically challenged type like me can keep up with.

I'd just barely mastered the electronic typewriter when the word processor came in, and everything's been in electronic flux ever since. I still miss the Royal portable I used to write all those term papers. And I'm still in the market for one of those bulky old Woodstocks that used to sit on desks like a tank. If I really had my druthers, I'd probably opt for quill pens with square nibs. Hey, if it was good enough for the Declaration of Independence.

In the end it's not the technology of the moment, the instruments of thought, that matter so much as the quality of the thought itself. Lewis Carroll had the right idea: Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves. That's the basic challenge: thinking things through. Then the words will come, the right words.

Verbally,

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Dear Friend,

It was wholly a pleasure to get your letter full of advice about where our editorials have gone wrong. Namely, we've been entirely too frank and offended people. We would be much more effective, you say, if we'd tone it down, not upset the powers that be, at least not day after day, and generally Go with the Flow.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.