Michel: Taking care with choosing words

2017 objectives center on strong writing
Michel: Taking care with choosing words

Words are powerful. The book of Proverbs tells us death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. I thought often of this biblical verse during the recent presidential race as I heard the labels “deplorables” and “illegals” used callously to define people, among other derogatory terms.

This is a new year and a new day. And while I struggle with the notion that it is once again acceptable to publicly voice hate against people who are seen as different, I will continue to carefully choose my words and use them not to offend or provoke, but try to convey what’s true and accurate. My renewed mission as editor of Madison Magazine is to be more conscious of the words used to describe our community, its residents and its leaders. We’ve always done so at the magazine. But as we begin 2017, it’s important to acknowledge the shifting times and what that means for the readers of our publication.

In a nutshell, it means we will focus on strong and compelling narratives in our cover and feature stories, told in thought-provoking ways. Each January, editorial director Neil Heinen delivers a visionary look at our city, and he does so in his think piece on conscious capitalism, starting on page 52. The idea that profits are secondary to a higher business purpose is a complicated philosophy to explain, but Heinen does so in his signature style that comes through as clearly in print as it does in his daily editorials on WISC-TV.

Just as Heinen’s editorials never shy away from confronting injustice or from noting good practices, my monthly column will also be a place for occasional comments on our changing community. Knowing Madison, I expect there to be more opportunities for accolades. Still, I will be watchful of how we speak to one another in this climate of targeting groups of people as societal problems.

This magazine’s attention to narrative also means that our coverage in the Pulse section will be artful, stylish and creative. The Dispatch section will be insightful, enterprising and provocative. Savor will be fresh, enticing and entertaining. These sections already exude all of those descriptors. But we’ll amp it up in 2017. And at the core of each will be strong reporting and writing that aptly reflect what Madison has to offer.

My editorial vision remains focused on capturing the whole story of Madison. That vision is broad enough to include everyone, and will be told with powerful, carefully chosen words.