I wrote a letter to the editor of The Star newspaper, recently. It was published yesterday. However, for the first time, in all the letters I have written, the editing on this one changed the meaning of my intention. Here, below is my original, unedited letter that I sent to the newspaper. Always do what you love.
By Valentine Cawley
I read the article: “Student is torn between art and science”, with a deep understanding of Pravinan Lai Xiong Hui’s dilemma. As a young man, I, too, was torn between art and science: in a way, I still am.
However, I found an answer, for myself: do both, serially, in one’s life. As background, it should be noted that I have, at various times, been an actor, a writer, a physicist, a performance artist and now, a psychological researcher.
Such a diverse range of interests and abilities may seem incompatible, but they are not: each is an expression of a different part of me.
Xiong Hui is about to make a grave mistake. If he gets a scholarship to do science, it looks like he will give up his life passion and ambition: to be a famous artist. One should never allow passion to yield to duty. Xiong might feel that science is more “useful” and “respected” in society, but that is no reason to give up his art. An artist does something no scientist ever does: they express the uniqueness of themselves. If Xiong truly has something to say, the greater “waste”, to use his word, would not be to not pursue science, but not to express his individual artistic viewpoint.
Xiong should not give up art. The world needs artists, too. If art is truly his passion, he would be happier pursuing that, than science. It is also likely that his passion will make him a better artist, than a scientist. If he feels he cannot turn his back on science, then he shouldn’t: but he should never stop drawing and painting, and so on. Don’t forget that one of the greatest artists of all was Leonardo da Vinci. He was also one of the greatest scientists. So, Xiong is facing a false decision. There is no need to exclude one, for the other. He could do both. If, however, he wishes to give one up, let it be science: for everyone should always do what they love.
The Star Newspaper's version is different in at least one key respect. Please see if you can spot it. Follow your heart and love for art
I READ “Student is torn between art and science” (The Star, March 24) with a deep understanding of Pravinan Lai Xiong Hui’s dilemma. I was torn between art and science after finishing my schooling too. In a way, I still am. However, I found an answer: do both, serially, in one’s life. I have, at various times, been an actor, a writer, a physicist, a performance artist and, now, a psychological researcher.
Such a diverse range of interests and abilities may seem incompatible, but they are not, as each is an expression of a different part of me.
If he gets a scholarship to do science, it looks like he will give up his passion and ambition to be a famous artist. One should never allow passion to yield to duty. Xiong might feel that science is more “useful” and “respected” in society but that is no reason to give up his art.
An artist does something no scientist ever does – express the uniqueness that is himself.
Xiong should not give up art. If art is truly his passion, he would be happier pursuing that than science. It is likely that his passion will make him a better artist than a scientist.
If he feels he cannot turn his back on science, then he shouldn’t. But he should never stop drawing and painting, and so on. Don’t forget that one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, was also one of the greatest scientists. So, there is no need to exclude one for the other. He can do both.
Did you spot it? I was rather surprised to note that my key advice that if he really had to give up one of them, that it should be science that he gave up, was edited out. This defeated the whole point of my advice to him, or to anyone in that position: to follow what they truly love. Also, for the first time in my letter writing experience, words were added that I never said. The reference to "after I finished my schooling", was not said by me. I was NOT torn between art and science AFTER my schooling, but THROUGHOUT my schooling. Also, what is wrong with referring to my youth as "young man"...that too was removed. How odd.
Now, I am glad that the letter was published, but I am concerned that the meaning I intended to convey has been altered. In effect, a viewpoint that is not quite my own, has been attributed to me. This is somewhat unsettling. Nevertheless, this is not the worst case of newspaper editing of letters I have heard of. I have read complaints, on the internet, of letters to Singaporean newspapers, on vaguely political topics, being so heavily edited that the effective position of the writer seems to have changed altogether. This is dangerous and misleading. I wonder, have you, my reader, heard of similar problems with the editing of letters to the editor in your country? Please provide examples below, if you have any. Thanks.
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Labels: letters to the Editor, media misrepresentation, misleading editing, The Star newspaper