By REBECCA PALMER
In the two weeks since we ran a letter to the editor that referred to followers of Obama as “Satan’s minions,” many of you have contacted me about it with displeasure, and even anger. I have heard more from the community on this issue than on many others during my three-month tenure, and I am pleased about that part of it. As a newspaper, we only have value if our readers are thinking and talking about what we publish.
Simultaneously, I regret that some of you saw my choice to publish the offending letter as hate mongering and as a sign that I agree with Joseph Lawson, who wrote it. Rather, I think that ad hominem attacks such as his are always destructive, and so are stereotyping and “us vs. them” mindsets.
This week, I want to explain my ideas about what our editorial pages should contain. First, as evidenced by my choice to run the Lawson letter, they should be a public forum. Like many of you, I was surprised to read it, but I acted on my belief that my personal stance on an issue shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not to publish any letter.
Second, the editorial pages should represent a diversity of local opinions. This letter represented an extreme, surely. If this opinion were common in my community, I would want to know about it. One of the benefits of a newspaper, compared to a blog or some not-to-be-named cable news stations, is that you will regularly encounter ideas you disagree with. This will continue to be true for these pages.
Third, the editorial pages should represent the community. We have started to make this happen with regular columns by well-respected community members such as John Pitt, former Davis Chamber of Commerce President; Don Milne, Zions Bank education specialist; local doctors and more. You, too, are helping with this. I get letters and column suggestions almost daily, and it is showing. Our editorial pages are increasingly interesting and vibrant.
Finally, our editorial pages should be a space for thoughtful debate about the day’s most pressing issues. Based on your feedback, I should have been more aware of this function before I chose to print Lawson’s words. Although I can’t promise never to offend, I commit to this: I will not print letters that are defamatory, that do not make logical sense, that are not relevant to our readers or that single out groups for harassment and name-calling. Ridiculousness gets a stoplight.
What I don’t think is ridiculous is the notion that both major political parties in this country, and some of the minor ones, have good ideas and good people to champion them. Democracy works best when ideas are up for debate, not people’s private lives. When we choose among potential leaders, we should discuss their ideas and their ability to implement them, not their religion, whether they once participated in a Care Bear cult, have Satanic followers or prefer chocolate over vanilla. If you have ideas to share, let’s continue talking. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your letter is for publication, please address it to “Editor.”