Platform for viewpoints doesn’t equal an endorsement
Published 11:36 am Thursday, March 14, 2019
How could the newspaper say XYZ?” the caller asked. (I won’t disclose the specific topic so as not to expose anyone, instead letting you choose whatever hot-button topic you prefer).
If I hadn’t done this a few hundred times, I would have been at a loss for words. The short answer was: The “newspaper” didn’t say anything at all. We simply published the opinion of someone who had a particular viewpoint.
One of the most common misconceptions about any newspaper is the employees agree with all the articles published. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Usually the staff’s opinions on an issue are as varied and diverse as those of the community itself.
For starters, it is important to understand the structure of the newspaper.
We go to great lengths to ensure articles on the front page and throughout much of the rest of the paper are fair and balanced, presenting all sides of an issue. This concept rarely creates much confusion.
Those rules don’t apply on the opinion page, the area of the newspaper that causes tempers to flare and people to ask questions like the aforementioned .
Readers must remember the old saying about opinions — everybody has one.
The purpose of any opinion section in a newspaper is to promote public debate and discussion. The commentary and cartoons are, by their very nature, expressing a viewpoint and position.
Our opinion page has a few distinct sections — all of which serve a purpose but are separate from each other.
Anything you see in this location of the page (and will usually include someone’s smiling face) is reserved for a column either by a guest contributor or myself.
Regardless of who the author is, the opinions expressed do not represent the views of the paper or anyone else. This location allows individuals to express their own perspectives.
Nothing I write reflects the newspaper’s view. As one person, I may have a view that is different than what we would say is best for the community and for the newspaper.
This same rule applies to anyone else who writes a guest column on this page, or a pastoral commentary or a lifestyle column. People submit columns that hit on a variety of topics, taking stances that others and I often disagree with. But that doesn’t mean we would trample on the First Amendment and the value of freedom of speech by silencing them.
That is one of the greatest liberties our wonderful nation offers, though it is not absolute.
Submissions should focus on opinions — whether we agree with them or not is irrelevant— rather than presenting facts that cannot be easily verified.
That brings us to another section of this page: letters to the editor. Much like submitted columns, we urge readers to let us know what they think about what is going on in the world, the state and our community.
Then, you have a political cartoons. These often get readers upset, but it is important to remember this is an artform built on satire and the party in power is always the easiest target.
Nothing published in any of these areas means the individual employees agree with what is written. Each and every employee has his or her own perspectives on life, politics and everything else.
We don’t all have to agree. We just have to respect that fact of life.
The newspaper wants to provide a platform for many voices, but that certainly doesn’t mean we endorse all of the messages.
Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org