Letter from the Editor: the Value of PF Briefs | Champion Briefs
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September 14, 2016

Letter from the Editor: the Value of PF Briefs

By Michael Norton

As a former Public Forum debater, I often find myself longing for the good old days of excitedly preparing for an important tournament. The endless time I spent researching and writing, though often tedious, was incredibly well spent. I learned more in debate than I did in any other club, activity, or even in any of my classes. At Champion Briefs, we are all former competitors looking to give back to a community that has taught all of us so much and provided unlimited opportunities for our futures. Statistically, debate has been proven to improve test scores, graduation rates, and is highly appealing to future employers. But personally, debate made me the person that I am today, and as the Editor-in-Chief of Champion Briefs’ Public Forum brief, it’s my job to help others have the same enriching experience I was able to have. Our philosophy here is that debate briefs are a crucial service for the debate community, designed to spur discussion and provide resources to as many corners of the country as possible. We do what we do because we love the activity and know that briefs are an important way to enhance the educational potential of Speech & Debate.

When I was a competitor, I remember waiting eagerly for the first briefs to publish every month so that I could get a head start on my research. When new topics are released, it can take weeks for students to acquaint themselves with just the conceptual bases of the subject. Often, the materials are scattered across private databases, written in complex, hard to understand jargon, or simply don’t exist. For that reason, debate briefs are critical because they provide a guide to the topic – both in terms of analysis that directs students’ approach and as a skeleton of research to exhibit the breadth of literature available. Rather than devoting endless hours to establish a starting point for research, using a brief allows competitors to jump straight into the deeper, more valuable research.

As a debater from a small team in a tiny district, I can attest to the difficulties of predicting the types of argumentation that competitors would gravitate towards. I had no one to do practice rounds against and no way to see how my opponents would react to my arguments. Briefs filled this gap by giving me a glimpse of many possible avenues of argumentation, ensuring that I was never caught off guard by an argument or a specific card at tournaments. This helps both debaters from small schools (like myself) but also students on large teams that want to consider the wide variety of topical approaches and responses.

One of the most important values of briefs is that they broaden discussion on debate topics. As Editor-in-Chief, my most important job is to guide the selection of arguments that are included in our files. Through this process, Champion Briefs has pushed discussions forward in the debate community by publishing unique or radical arguments that had previously been ignored. Briefs will never be able to provide a perfect background of the topic, but we do ensure a way to understand what other top competitors or educators around the country think about the topic at hand.

At Champion Briefs, we’re constantly improving our resources to provide you with the best possible product. This year, we’re rolling out a specialist topic analysis every month, which will be an in-depth examination of the topic by an expert on the given subject area. For the September/October brief, Professor Craig Smith of the Center for First Amendment Studies wrote an excellent essay on the intricacies of utilizing a probable cause standard for searches of students. Furthermore, we’re constantly refining our editing process. Our tiered editing process is more thorough than any brief has ever been. We have three hard-working editors, Jakob Urda, Aarron Schurevich, and Andrew Monagle, who devote many hours every month combing through our brief to ensure everything meets our rigorous quality standards. Every citation and every sentence are checked multiple times over to ensure that the evidence goes above and beyond the NSDA’s expectations. As a company, Champion Briefs encourages everybody to hold themselves to a high standard when cutting cards, which is why we put our Evidence Standard at the front of every brief we publish. The brief is getting even better every month, and we’re always listening to the needs of the Public Forum community so that we can serve you best – our goal is for Champion Briefs to symbiotically progress with the norms of PF, adapting to and advancing the discourse within our activity.

Here at Champion Briefs, our motto is to never cut corners and to write as educators, keeping in mind the value that debate provides students in their efforts to learn about the world. No brief can promise perfection, and we can’t promise an absolute lack of minor errors in spelling or grammar once in a blue moon (sorry, we’re only human). But we can promise that our brief is an incredible investment for any competitor, regardless of experience level. We provide hundreds of pages on each and every topic, covering the necessary general information, the most important frameworks, the most powerful and thought-provoking arguments, and more.

Champion Briefs has made a concerted effort to hire a staff with geographical diversity, racial diversity, and gender balance. We aren’t just brief writers – we’re trying to change debate for the better, which is why Champion Briefs has spent tens of thousands of dollars helping students with financial need access debate through the Champion Briefs Foundation and other non-profit efforts. This year, we’re proud to help the community in new and exciting ways, but there’s still work to be done – we’ll be here, writing briefs, constantly striving to improve ourselves and the community we cherish.

If you haven't already subscribed, I hope you'll use our Public Forum briefs this year to take debate to a deeper level. Please just let us know if there's anything more that we can do to help your team succeed.


Michael Norton Editor-in-Chief, Public Forum Briefs Champion Briefs