Editorial: You spoke, we heard

  • June 1, 2023

A little known but essential skill of editorial writing is dexterity in climbing down off a high horse with egg all over the editorialist’s face.

We got a mule-kick’s worth of needing that knack with last week’s excoriation of experts forecasting Canada must have a population of 100 million by 2100 in order to continue on its current social and political course. We called the prophecy itself ludicrous, and the silence underlying it duplicitous.

We stand by the points we made that forecasting what Canada must be in terms of population 77 years hence is a mug’s game at best. Could the world emerging from the global wreckage of the Second World War have predicted the necessary sufficient conditions of a world in which the then-unborn Donald Trump would emerge to wreak havoc? We would be on firmer ground, however, if we hadn’t slip-shoddily mixed up the digits so the appeal became for Canada to reach the 100 million population plateau in 2021. The glitch was easily fixed for our website. Alas, the printed page gives no quarter once it’s off the press.

What we ended up inadvertently arguing would require a time machine overflowing with immigrants from around the globe, and multi-millions of Canadian citizens on the verge of giving birth. There are a thousand wrong ways to be right. Among the more embarrassing is overlooking a simple typing error in a key fact. Humility, your mother’s maiden name was proof reader.

As Catholics we know, to borrow from St. Paul, that all have erred and fallen short of the glory of God so there’s nothing to do but seek absolution. That makes this absolutely the best time as well to acknowledge we closed the barn door on the apocryphal horse with our decision to remove letters to the editor from our editorial page on a weekly basis. We calculated that readers would welcome in place of the letters section the feature we call Verbatim that, as the name suggests, are virtually untouched texts from a wide variety of sources.

We got it half right. Verbatim fills the bill. But we have also had a sack full and an ear full of complaints about the decision, not just from those who wrote letters to the editor but from those who never wrote yet now tell us they loved reading readers’ writing, which made them feel part of a community. 

Seeking to redeem ourselves again, we’ve found a compromise. Starting soon, we will select one “letter of the week” to highlight on the editorial page of our print edition. We will complement it by posting on our web site as many printable letters as we receive. Full disclosure: we frankly hope the choosing of one letter a week for the print edition will foster a friendly competition for the space among our seasoned epistolary contributors as well as those who have seldom or never written to us. Perhaps we’ll offer a reader’s poll prize for the year’s best. 

What the reader response to our removal of the letters section, and our own responsibility to own and correct errors both demonstrate is that The Register is, indeed, part of a community, yes, but also has a stewardship role in helping to sustain that community for the future whether it is seven or 77 years away.  

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