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Thursday, May 5, 2016

From the Midway: Shooting the messenger

Monday, November 24, 2008

Last week the Chronicle Times received several letters to the editor in response to an editorial that was printed on Nov. 7. The editorial was a harsh criticism of President Bush.

Those who wrote in thought the tone of the editorial was mean and malicious and they responded with the same tone.

Well, it's about time that the pot was stirred a little around here.

Before I go any further let's take a minute or two to go over some basics of Chronicle Times editorial page.

First, what is an editorial?

An editorial is the opinion of the newspaper itself, (our editorial is titled "Our Opinion") usually written by the editor. Just because an editorial is written by the boss does not mean everyone who works at the paper agrees with what their boss has to say. Its not like everyone at the paper sits around and agrees or votes on any particular subject. Trust me, we don't have the time to do that. In a bigger city newspapers have several people on their editorial boards who do just that. We don't.

Second, what is an opinion column?

An opinion column is a regularly appearing column by a writer who expresses their opinion on any subject they wish to write about. It is that writer's opinion and that writer's opinion alone. It is not a news article. Many get confused and think that a column is an article. That is why we name our columns like a series (example: From the Midway, Basic Biittner, Winding Roads, Struck Strikes Out, Gray Matters). We also have columns from the Cherokee Public Library, Quimby Library, Cherokee County Economic Development, and State and National politicians.

As for national columnists we have Donald Kaul, who often represents the left, and Kathleen Parker who often represents the right. Other columns we receive promote activities for non-profit or socially responsible organizations, like long time contributor Don Avis's Extension Line, Brenda Medick's Spotlight on 4-H, or Paula Larson's Paw Prints. These generally don't promote the opinion of the writer but the cause or organization they represent. That is why they usually appear on the social page instead of the opinion page.

Third, what is a political cartoon?

The cartoons that are published on our opinion page are like many cartoons and are political in nature. They are a humorous and satirical look at our politicians (both parties), social commentary or just plain silliness. After all it just a cartoon. (Side note: I am aware that the technical term is comic not cartoon, a cartoon is animated and not a single panel or comic strip, but I want to get on with the column and not spend time explaining this).

Bottom line, when picking out a cartoon that appears in this paper I choose the one that I think is the funniest from what I have to choose from. It is not politically motivated, although good taste does play a factor. I found a hilariously funny cartoon the day after the election of a KKK member shooting himself in the head. But due to the violence and racial overtone of the cartoon I did not pick that cartoon because, in my opinion it was in bad taste.

Finally, what is a letter to the editor?

A letter to the editor is from the reader. It an open invitation for you the reader to become part of the community dialogue. People use this format for many different reasons. Thank you letters, personal views on our society, or as a response to something they have read in the paper, news or opinion. Whether you agree with a columnist or disagree, your letters are always welcomed here.

In fact we encourage the response from the public. The only thing we ask is to keep the letter under 750 words and that it be from the Cherokee County area and that you sign your name. As a columnist, my name is on every column that I write so you know who wrote it. I'm not afraid of taking a hit on the chin if you don't agree with me. When we get letters here at the paper we get excited. It means to us that people are reading and are taking the time to get involved in a dialogue about what's important in all our lives.

That is what it's all about folks.

To get people talking, to hear opinions and when you write in you let other readers know what your opinion is and not just that of the paper's. We don't claim to make you think our way or boost that everyone sees things the same way as the paper does. It would be arrogant to think otherwise.

Now back to the issue at hand. Was the editorial on Nov. 7 harsh and have a negative tone.

It sure did.

Did I agree with that editorial? No, I did not.

It is my personal belief that the editorial was too soft on the criticism of President Bush. I'll be making my case on the president some other time. I did however think that the editorial was published too soon after the election. There are still many Republicans who felt an emotional loss when their party did not retain the oval office. I felt the editorial piled on and rubbed them the wrong way, like having your face rubbed in the ground after you lose a fight. Or, to use a sport analogy, we should have received a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike like conduct. But the game will continue.

The thing that is so great about what Paul Struck and Troy Valentine bring to you the readers is allowing us writers to say what we want. Not too many paper's do that on a consistent basis.

Many are afraid to go out on a limb and when you don't go out there and exercise the most important right we have as citizens, Freedom of Speech, something is lost. You can play it safe or you can try to make a difference.

As a reader, if you don't like what you read you have the choice of not to read it. Or you have the right to become so irate that you can cancel your subscription. One gentleman went so far as to call for our advertisers to stop advertising with us. Those are all choices that a reader has.

These actions are extreme for just a matter of disagreement, but your choice never the less.

I would like to point out that publishers at the Chronicle Times have given a gift to you, my fellow writers and me. They let us express ourselves, both good and bad. Over the past two years I have tried to exercise that gift. I've have written my opinion on such heated issues as gay marriage, abortion, my political opinion, immigration and even the curiosity of what a bald eagle must taste like.

When a writer starts to think is this going to make some people mad if I write about a certain subject, and then stays away from that subject, they are not doing their job and you as a reader suffer for it.

When I share my opinion on a topic it is not to try to make you think the way I do, but it is trying to show that there are other opinions out there and it is my hope that once people see an opinion from a different perspective they can come together and find common ground.

So did the response to the editorial on Nov. 7 warrant the same type of negative response from the readers? Yes, we at the paper can't say how someone should feel emotionally on what we write. When you set a negative tone you get negative responses.

The one column I have written over the past two years that I had received the most letters about was not on any of the issues that I stated earlier. It was on a column I wrote about bashing The New Kids On The Block. It was a negative column. Why was it negative? I really, really don't like the TNKOTB.

Over all, I was not surprised when we received those negative letters going after the writer of that Nov. 7 editorial. But I am curious why none of the letters did actually defend President Bush.

Mike Leckband
From the Midway