Friday, January 30, 2009

Opinion, Not News

There exists a substantial number of readers who would prefer we keep our opinions to ourselves. They don't want to see — and I won't tolerate — our opinions in news stories. And some readers get burned up because we get opinionated on our Opinion page. They just don't understand how we get off thinking that anyone cares what we think. They wish we would simply print the news and not raise the hell.

Opinion pages are long-standing traditions in newspapers. Mostly, they are meant to generate community discussion about topical issues. We think of our own editorials as base-line opinions that, hopefully, will present readers a point of view from which they can opine their own opinions, in letters to the editors or with an occasional column.

Based on the number of letters we receive, we are well aware that our Opinion page is among the more contentious but best-read sections of the paper. We are blessed to be operating a newspaper in a community that is fully engaged, very educated and exceedingly opinionated.
We love it -- and we welcome opinions different than ours. We like to think of our Opinion page as the last bastion of civilized discourse, where reasonable people can agree to disagree.

On Sunday, you'll notice that we took our opinion off the Opinion page. This is a rare occurrence for us, but the issue at stake is too great to leave hidden in one of our inside pages. California government has reached a state of calamity, and its leaders have embarrassed us all.
Most newspapers in California owned by MediaNews are running similar editorials on their front pages.

In this case, we do not seek to generate public discussion. There's been plenty of that already. Instead, on behalf of residents who are sick of the deadlock, we hope to get the attention of California leaders. It's likely futile, but worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. "we are well aware that our Opinion page is among the more contentious but best-read sections of the paper."

    Knowing that, why has the Herald cut back opinion content so much in the last several years? I remember when the Herald had TWO full pages of opinion Monday through Friday (none on Saturday), and THREE pages of opinion on Sundays for a total of 13 pages per week. This gave plenty of room for a variety of syndicated columnists representing all points of view - from Thomas Friedman to Cal Thomas to George Will to Maureen Dowd and many others. Now we're down to 7 pages a week, syndicated columnists are almost nonexistent, and complaints are increasing that you're not representing all points of view, and YOU'RE complaining that people are complaining. Since, by your own admission, the opinion pages are the most widely read, maybe you'll get more readers and fewer complaints if you expand the opinion section back to two pages a day and offer a wide range of syndicated columnists. I, for one, would heartily endorse such ha move, not just because I thought of it, but because diverse op-ed content makes a paper much more informative and enjoyable.