My First Experiences with Digital Composition

Since my years as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley I have been an active proponent of digital composition as a way of broadly communicating with ones local community as well as our global community at large. Since my middle school days I had dreamed of entering the publishing world and eventually running my own publishing press as some of my favorite writers had done in the past. As most novices with aspirations towards becoming editors or publishers I was not aware of the rigors, and difficulties that publishing for either a print or online publication entails. However, learning about these difficulties as editor for UC Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal (CLUJ) as well as becoming a columnist for the Daily Californian (Daily Cal) was an enriching experience that made me a better writer and a wiser consumer digital media content.

My journey in publishing began when I became an editor for CLUJ. While working alongside senior students and a faculty staff member, it was there I first learned about the different tasks and responsibilities that reputable and ethical editors are expected to complete and abide. Firstly, I learned the task of an editor not simply to spell check the work of writer, but that the editor must evaluate the piece of writing through an analytic perspective in order to determine if the work in question not only meets standard writing specification but also elicits thought provoking ideas, demonstrates creativity and originality, is able to provide new perspectives on a given subject, and is able to engage and challenge the reader’s mind. Further, by working with the journal I learned that a publisher must remain as impartial as possible and judge a work based solely by its arguments and ability to back up those arguments with substantial (in our case textual) evidence. In an attempt to meet this ethical criteria, as editors we analyzed individual pieces of writing without prior knowledge as to the writers personal background information. That is, we reviewed each piece without writing blind to the author’s ethnic background, age, gender, sex, and academic background.

The real challenge of working with CLUJ, however, came when only a semester after I had become an editor all the senior editors and half of the junior editors decided to quit due to internal conflict among the journal’s members. At that point we were halfway through the semester, we had completed less than half of the author’s submissions. Faced with this circumstance the remaining editors had two options, we either stepped up and assumed the roles of the editors that had departed or we let the journal flounder and die. It was at this point that I needed to remind myself as to why I had become an editor to an undergraduate journal. Reflecting on this I realized that I had joined the journal not only because I had ambitions to enter the publishing world or because I need extra curricular activities (at Berkeley I was busy enough with school work), but I had join the journal because I had, and continue to have an innate belief that young people are capable of producing serious, meritorious work that is both original and thought provoking. I have always believed that one does not need an advance academic degree to provide new insight into issues that may seem obscure to some or issues that may heretofore been thought of as settled and not requiring further examination. It is for those reasons that I eventually became the one of the chief editors and as a team we decided to keep the journal afloat.

As difficult and physically and intellectually taxing as the near dismember of CLUJ was, it taught an important lesson about the importance of team work. It taught me that successful reading and writing is not the solitary endeavor a few brilliant individuals but rather the coordinated endeavors of multiple individuals who must support each other with constructive critiques as well as moral support. These values of collaborative work were further instilled me when I became a columnist for the Daily Californian. For as a weekly columnist I not only worked closely with my senior editor at the paper but also remainder journalists, photographers and formatting editors that were in charge and publishing the newspaper on daily basis.

One of the most crucial lessons I learned as a columnist while working at the Daily Cal was that all the information I wrote that wasn’t strictly opinion based had to be fact checked by the senior members of the newspaper. If within any of the writer’s opinion columns there was supporting information that could not be fact checked it simply could not be published by the newspaper. This not only reinforced my idea that every columnist, journalist (even blogger) must adhere to certain ethical standards of writing but that the writer is responsible to both the reader and the their writing platform by presenting pieces that either knowingly or unknowingly deceive the reading audience.

This belief in presenting ethical pieces of writing that were supported by factual documentation was further reinforced when once my writing was published digitally, readers who disagreed with my views attempted to figuratively tear me and my writing to pieces. I think this experience taught me my most important lesson in digital writing. It taught me that once a written work is published and widely circulated either in print or digital platforms it must have ethical, structural, and logical wherewithal to stand and defend itself. For that crucial lesson I give thanks to my stedfast editors and critical readers.

One thought on “My First Experiences with Digital Composition”

  1. David, you have a wealth of experience writing and publishing others’ writing online. Your students will be lucky to have such an experienced writer at the helm of their classroom 🙂


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