A new year brings a new name and a broadened focus for the thing that has thus far been known as “the civility project.”
The new name – “Civilitas AOJ” – follows directly from the broadened focus.
Our 2011 conversation on political civility and related matters produced a number of insights into the area of concern that we were poised to enter. For instance, the word “civility” lends itself to misunderstandings. Some critics had trouble reconciling “civility” with critical evaluation, robust analysis or biting disapproval -- all of which are inextricable elements of the opinion journalist’s toolkit. Others asked whether “civility” and “opinion journalism” weren’t incompatible concepts.
Meanwhile, “civility” sounded, to some of our colleagues, like the promise of guidelines in political correctness, in contravention not only of the traditions of journalistic opinion but also of the First Amendment.
Our ongoing consideration of these issues led to the conclusion that the proper role of AOJ in this area is not to be concerned merely with the tone of the political conversation but also with its effectiveness. Certainly “civilitas” carries connotations of graciousness and courtesy, but it also, reflecting its Latin root, refers to the broader responsibilities of citizenship. Civilitas AOJ thus maintains our enduring focus on truth, logic, fairness and transparency with the additional recognition that these are not ends in themselves but rather the tools of fair, honest and productive public discourse.
As always, your comments are welcome.