Editor’s Letter: A Case for Nuance

Editor's Letter: A Case for Nuance

A celebration of thoughtful reply.

Of all an editor’s responsibilities, among the most thrilling and bedevilling is responding to reader comments. In my tenure as Alcalde editor, I have tried to write back to every reader who sends me a letter, complimentary, hostile, and everything in between. I remember once pleading mea culpa to a reader furious with us for printing that Texas Motor Speedway was in Dallas, not Fort Worth, and who had sent a copy of the letter to the Fort Worth mayor’s office. In every case, I have tried to see an issue from a reader’s perspective and reply with a sympathetic and friendly tone, as though we were old pen pals.

Comments, like letters to the editor, are one way that we at the Texas Exes get to hear from our community. We think of the Alcalde as hosting an ongoing conversation about the University of Texas, its alumni, and the Ex-Students’ Association itself. When we consider the audience, one of the only common traits is a college degree. That is an instructive unifier—our readers are capable of evaluating arguments and deciding for themselves what they find persuasive.

Like any good conversation, we want the one we host to be relevant, informed, even a little surprising or funny. We certainly want it to go back and forth. But we also want it to be polite. In this age of online and anonymous commenting, that can be hard to find. But not here. Consider this note we received in response to the feature in the May|June issue detailing the university’s push to increase the four-year graduation rate: “The pressure to graduate in four years should not take precedence over receiving a valuable, wholesome education. I think students should be able to, within reason, take the time they need to receive the education they earned with their effort and their money. A university should not be a factory that receives and pumps out graduates in four years.”

Or this one from reader William Reynolds, in regards to UT professor Doug Bruster’s argument (March|April) in favor of research on the Bard: “Shakespeare speaks to the human condition in a timeless fashion. Research keeps this important subject top of mind. Something that STEM does not teach is leadership. Henry V is probably one of the best stories of what good leadership looks like.”

What strikes me as commonly present in adult-level conversation is nuance, and this month’s cover story on fracking and its effects (“Boomtown,” p. 48) is a perfect example of what this magazine can do. UT professor Michael Webber shows us that the domestic energy boom has been good economically, but not as good as you might think; bad environmentally, but not as bad as you might suppose; and good geopolitically, but not good enough to extricate us from many of the thorny international issues that have complicated our nation’s foreign policy for decades. The best alumni magazines can and should be extensions of the university environment, where polite, reasoned debate rules the day.

To that end, I invite you to participate in our comments section with the same intellectual rigor that you did in college. That kind of conversation improves our understanding of the complicated issues that our university helps us all grapple with. I expect to get a lot of comments about fracking, and I look forward to reading them. And, of course, to responding.




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