I finished up The Lincoln County News 2021 Year In Review last week while isolating after a close contact COVID-19 exposure and enjoying some holiday time with my family.
The Year In Review process gave me a chance to at least skim all the issues of the newspaper published in 2021. I was particularly drawn to the editorial pages where I noticed we publish far more letters to the editor on topics of national dispute now that I am editor than we ever did before.
I wish I could assert this was an intentional editorial decision with a clear-sighted end goal in mind, but it wasn’t. There are challenges to be expected when you become the first editor hired outside the family or company in 100 years, and most of my energy was devoted to the newsroom staff, meeting local people, and learning how it’s been before I decide what it can be.
Plus I simply tend to err on the side of free speech.
An opinion section is intended for readers to air their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. We prioritize letters of local interest, but over the last six months of my tenure, there’s been a slow creep of more and more letters that take on climate change, the Jan. 6 insurrection, President Joe Biden’s policies, and that’s just to name a few.
Thanks to all who told me what they think on these topics, and for including – at times – references upon which your thoughts are based.
The trouble is you can find evidence to support whatever you want to believe is true in these days of alternative facts and manufactured meaning.
Drawing distinction from facts and opinions is important, and ensuring facts are properly represented is necessary to preserve the integrity of journalism.
John points out, “Herein lies the problem for a small community newspaper: There are not enough resources, expertise, or time to be able to address these items and provide this context on the editorial pages.”
Fact-checking all of it could be someone’s full-time job. And even if we had someone dedicated to running down every editorial page citation, cross-checking them against an opposing set of data, research, information, and sources, we’d get five more letters arguing against it.
That’s a lot of ink.
Is the sky blue?
That used to an easy question to answer. Now, like so many other facts I took for granted, it’s as open to debate as anything else.
The Lincoln County News wants to be your trusted source for local community news. We spend an exhaustive amount of time making sure our journalism adheres to the highest standards, that we get the facts right, and the story straight. That’s our job and that’s where our focus must remain.
When we don’t get it right, or when there is an opportunity to improve what we do, we want to hear from you. Our newsroom has experienced a sea change of staff, myself included, in the last year, and there is a lot that we are still learning about Lincoln County.
We want to hear from you about local issues and concerns. Those letters are important and belong on the editorial page. We all learn from them. As we consider changing our letters-to-the-editor policy so it is in line with what we outline here, we want to hear from you to make sure we are moving in the direction our readers will support. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But enough already with broad national issues. If you find a local connection to one of these items, please send it in, but keep it focused on local impact in Lincoln County.
One of the things I’ve come to respect about The Lincoln County News is how it wants to remain unbiased on the matters we report. That extends to the editorial pages, too.
Let’s keep it true in 2022.