Editor’s column: Opinion page — host for a vigorous discussion

Randy Essex

About a month ago, I invited conservative readers to get in touch with me if they were interested in writing monthly columns to help balance the views presented on our opinion page.

I got a great response and have selected five of those readers to join our regular column lineup. Three of the five have already had their debuts this month.

Here are the five new columnists:

• Vince Emmer from Gypsum is a fee-only financial adviser who describes himself as fascinated by public finances. He’s written some for the Vail Daily, and will appear on the third Wednesday of each month.

• Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His columns will run on the fourth Thursday of each month. One of his sample columns was about Carbondale’s utility tax, defeated Tuesday; it ran last weekend to appear before voting ended.

• Mitch Mulhall is a longtime valley resident with a master’s in English from Colorado State University and experience in technical writing and blog editing. His column will run on second Fridays — the first of which ran last week on Hillary Clinton’s undergraduate paper on Saul Alinsky.

• Rachel Ophoff’s column will appear on second Wednesdays. An El Jebel resident, she says she “works as a right-brained writer/speaker and a left-brained bookkeeping consultant. A diehard Star Trek fan, she celebrates the days she’s firing on all thrusters.” She has a website,

• Bryan Whiting’s “Personal Responsibility” column, which will appear on the first Wednesday of the month, debuted last week with a look at “What’s wrong with kids,” which was extremely popular with our online readers. He’s retired after teaching 33 years at Glenwood Springs High, including marketing, economics and being in charge of the DECA program.

This balances the left- and right-leaning regular columnists at seven each. Since I write more than once a month, I also regularly run guest opinions from Colorado’s conservative Independence Institute.

My goal for the opinion page is for it to be a starting point and platform for vigorous discussion. I want to minimize use of national syndicated columnists and maximize local voices in columns, guest opinions and letters.

If you read my columns, you know that I am part of the stereotyped liberal media. But I like my thinking to be challenged. David Brooks, a classic conservative who writes for the New York Times, is something of a role model from afar. I admire his style of argument, the research he brings to his columns and his tone, even as I disagree with many of his solutions to the nation’s challenges.

In the same way, I believe our new contributors will provide provocative food for thought, just as our current columnists regularly do. That’s the point.

If you disagree with them or are inspired by them, please feel free to write a letter to the editor. They can be emailed to We ask that you try to write fewer than 350 words so more voices can be heard in our limited space, but 380 or 400 words is not a disqualifying sin. I do edit longer letters a bit more heavily for length. At times, I’ve asked writers to resubmit a shorter letter.

If writers get above 500 words, I am willing to look at the submission for a guest opinion, though I’m more discriminating about what we publish as a guest opinion than I am about letters. We run nearly every letter we get from Garfield County residents — I would estimate the rejection rate for letters at less than 2 percent.

We published a letter recently arguing that a policy we set last year banning use of “illegal” and “anchor baby” as labels for people in letters, columns and guest opinions amounts to censorship. Another letter we will publish soon contends that letters to the editor were better before I became the PI’s editor, and letters now are politically correct.

Addressing the last assertion first, we published well over 800 letters to the editor and 85 guest opinions in 2015, both substantial increases over 2013, the year before I got here. I am criticized from both the left and right — actually, more from the left — for some of the columns and letters we publish.

I do set standards and I do edit, and the policy on “illegal” as a label is in step with both Associated Press style and a recent decision by the Library of Congress. More importantly, it is part of the PI’s editorial position to promote basic human decency toward immigrants.

Editing isn’t censorship. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech but doesn’t require editors to publish anything you throw their way. I’d be irresponsible — trust me — to publish much of the material that we get unedited. Some is hateful. A lot of it batters my faith in our schools.

Here’s an unedited excerpt that is less uncommon than you probably would like to think: “One word for the gentleman who worrys so much about the illegals and there right to drive in the great this state. Well its called illegals when your not sopposed to be here becuse your a illegal immigrants. So look up illegal.”

Yes, you caught me: I edit letters before you see them, some more than others.

Again, my goal is to host a vigorous, albeit edited, discussion on our opinion page. I believe our new columnists will contribute greatly to that and I further invite you to join in.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.

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