Publisher’s column: Opinion page is supposed to have strong views
Last week I thought I would write a column about intolerance in our community. I let some time pass to clear my head of the negative and some nasty phone calls and email I have received spurred by some recent opinion page content. While intolerance exists, the reality is that this community has mostly demonstrated that we can have a civil discussion on issues even though we may disagree.
The extreme exception was a local business owner that took offense to our two recent editorials regarding immigration. The gentleman genuinely believed that when we wrote, “We stand in support of immigrants” we really were stating, “We stand in support of illegal immigrants.” That was despite this line in the third paragraph: “We favor a path to citizenship for people who are living here lawfully and who follow appropriate procedures to gain legal status.”
His attack became personal not only toward me but also toward our circulation manager, Jake Marine. At the business owner’s request, Jake removed our newspaper box from in front of the man’s business. As he did, a gentleman at the business yelled over to him that “you’ve got the worst f****ing paper in the world.”
I scratch my head and wonder why that kind of extreme anger exists. With the exception of the opinion page, we work hard to provide balanced news and information of our county that informs, entertains and celebrates our residents’ accomplishments.
The opinion page is just that, a sharing of opinions. Strong viewpoints belong on the opinion page. Do we agree with every opinion shared? Of course we don’t. And not every Post Independent employee agrees with every editorial we write. Editorials are based on a variety of ideas and research. We hold editorial advisory meetings with community members selected to provide conservative, liberal and middle-of-the-road ideas. Through our discussions with this diverse group, Editor Randy Essex and I craft our editorial positions.
Last week a key topic in our discussion with editorial advisers was what position we would take on the upcoming $120 million Re-1 bond issue. The board was split, and quite frankly I left the meeting not sure where I personally stand. There is a great need for funds for our school system. On the other hand does the school board really need $120 million to fulfill the key needs?
This will be a tough editorial to write once we determine our stand. Based on feedback we have received, the community is also split on this issue. No matter what side we take, I know we can expect to hear from very unhappy readers when the editorial does run. I can hardly wait for the response.
A healthy community has the ability to share conflicting views and then try to come together with a resolution to issues. The reality is that we received mostly positive feedback regarding the immigration editorial, along with passionate disagreement. Several readers have taken exception to our stand, and they have responded with civil opinions that we were happy to publish.
Personally I feel no obligation or desire to jam my beliefs down anyone’s throat. Nor do I wish to be personally attacked or have an individual try to force his or her beliefs on me.
Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.
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Editor’s note: Managing Editor and Senior Reporter John Stroud did not participate in discussions for this editorial since he is the primary reporter on the story.