Last week, my column regarding my feelings on the Charlottesville white supremacy march sparked a lot of interest—and that’s exactly why our newspaper produces opinion pieces.
Comments on Facebook, email and even a letter to the editor were among the reactions to my column. Some sided with my views while others detested them.
Personally, I don’t care whether a reader agrees with me, but I care very much about whether my opinion moves him or her to express their view.
And that’s the point.
Columnists and editorial writers don’t compose their pieces for narcissistic reasons. At least the good ones don’t.
The goal is to always generate dialogue. Columns are a jumping off point for readers to discuss a topic with the writer, the newspaper and their fellow media consumers.
Last year people across the country accused virtually all newspapers of being biased just for having an opinion page. It was like no one noticed papers have been trafficking in news, as well as opinion for the last 300 years.
There were of course defenders of the free press. People who came to the aide of us and others across the spectrum of media to point out that editorial pages are nothing new. And we are grateful for that. But, the criticism still left me with a bad taste.
I began to question whether we should maintain editorial pages. I wondered if they inhibited our ability to write effective and objective news stories. My colleagues did not share this woe, but it was certainly an introspective moment. I still think as an industry we need to examine our editorial pages and how we handle them.
However, last week our readers gave me heart. The vast majority of comments were well informed, insightful ideas arguing a particular side. Yes, occasionally they degraded into insults, but for the most part they were inspiring. And that’s all we really want.
It would be incredibly arrogant for us to think our readers should fall into lock step with our beliefs. Ideally, opinion writers are trained to convey guidance and shed light on topics through their respective medium with ease. It doesn’t always work. I have certainly written some convoluted doozies in my time, but all-in-all the goal is to generate intelligent debate.
So thank you to all who commented. I feel like our editorials and columns still have a place in this world and more often than not, our readers will use them to discuss instead of chastise.