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Some Changes in the WIND
Our impending change to laying out the WIND with a computer suggests that this is the time for some other changes in the WIND.
Certainly one of the most vexing problems we have in producing the paper is how to deal with the many and varied opinions nearly everything engenders, from roads to water to sewage, the Post Office, public toilets — you name it and you can find a wide variety of opinions. And we need to find a way to permit the greatest possible forum for discussion of these issues in the WIND. The problem is really two-fold; how to control the opinions expressed, and how to insure that every side of an issue has an opportunity for expression.
I believe the WIND should grow up. If this is indeed a real newspaper, and I believe it is; a journal of the life and times of Allenspark, then it should act like one.
I believe newspapers grow, earn respect and reflect the diversity of their communities by allowing the widest possible latitude in opinion. If we look at the editorial pages of any other newspaper, we can find a wide (and healthy) diversity on almost every issue. The WIND problem is that it doesn’t have an editorial page, and I believe it’s time we had one.
I believe many of the complaints we hear stem from our lack of differentiation between news and opinion. But it’s time we grew up. News should be news, and opinion should belong in a section so labeled, and our readers should be able to tell the difference.
As we prepare to computerize, we have an opportunity to make some changes that will help solve this problem.
We’re going to have a section that begins with an “OPINIONS” heading, or something similar, and ends with the masthead. It will include Marge McCulloch’s column, Phil Stern’s, Jack Zumwinkel’s occasional insightful comments, my own silliness, letters to the editor, and any other writing which is clearly opinion and carries a by-line. If there are those in the community who disagree with those opinions, they will have the opportunity to write an opinion of their own, also by-lined. At the same time, we are going to be more careful about how news stories are written, so they don’t contain the author’s opinion unless there is a byline. Just like the big newspapers.
I believe we have both the right and the obligation to foster diversity of opinion. No member of the editorial board should feel they have to defend the opinions of anyone writing in the WIND. Those who disagree should be referred to the writer and urged to lend their voice to the issue by writing. They should be encouraged, and we should publish their views, no matter how we feel about them personally.
That’s how it’s done in all good papers in this country, and there’s no reason why the WIND can’t be as good as any other.
I believe censorship is contrary to what this country and its constitution stand for. If a majority of the publishers, or the editor (if so empowered by the publishers) should decide that a column is poorly written or hostile to the best interests of the community and the paper, then the writer should be fired. But as long as a column is published, the paper must stand behind the writer’s right to his/her opinion.
I believe, in reviewing my fifty-seven columns (so far), that I have often erred on the side of not fully expressing my opinion because “I didn’t want to offend anyone.” Nevertheless, I have offended people, and sometimes I wish I had offended more. As I get older, I expect I will. When I become too much of a curmudgeon, I expect the WIND will fire me. That is its right.
Until then, I believe I should be able to write, and to take responsibility for every single word. That responsibility is implicit in the often misunderstood title of my column, which says, in effect, “This is my personal view; my own twisted, idiosyncratic impression. I sign my name every single month. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem, not mine. And if you don’t like it, write your own, and, within the bounds of common sense and the laws of libel, we’ll publish it.”
I believe we can support this view only if we now make a decision to become a real newspaper, with unified goals, dedicated to serving the community in the best way we know how, in the best traditions of volunteerism and fully supporting a diversity of opinion in search of the truth.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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