A Crosby reader sent a letter to the publisher the other day "to register a complaint about your newspaper's coverage of the just-concluded election campaign."
What this reader said next made us pause and reflect how others might also see our motivations.
"Your obvious bias in favor of Mr. Bush was in my opinion a disservice to the community," the reader wrote. "The publisher, of course, can support whomever he chooses. However, I believe it would have been appropriate for you to publish an editorial endorsing Bush, while also publishing letters and articles favoring both candidates.
"The last straw was the articles by the right-wing extremist, Cal Thomas."
That letter led to a long discussion at a Dispatch Editorial Board meeting and a spirited give and take at a meeting of The Dispatch Advisory Board the next day. It became clear to us that we should interrupt today's BREAKING NEWS on the Florida recount to discuss what this page is all about.
Judging from the critical comments over the years calling us too liberal and the critical comments from others saying we are too conservative we figured we were being fair.
No, we didn't endorse any candidates this election. We don't recall any editorials we wrote that may have favored one candidate over the other. But we plead guilty as charged that some of our columnists, especially of the syndicated variety, may have shown their bias one way or the other.
That's the way it's supposed to be.
This is the Editorial page. That indicates it's a page of opinion. Some papers call their editorial page Opinion or Commentary, among other things. But newspapers seek to make a clear distinction between the facts presented in news stories and features on other pages and the opinions offered on the editorial page.
A member of our 15-member Advisory Board may have said it best when she said, "Sometimes we forget an editorial page is just an opinion."
As for that alleged bias toward Gov. Bush, another member of the Advisory Board may have been on the mark when he suggested that the Crosby reader was so upset with the Cal Thomas column that he saw that as a sign The Dispatch favored Bush.
Not so. We select columns from the syndicates and wire services that we hope will foster dialogue and stimulate thought. Often we run columns that we do not agree with. Sometimes we choose columns counter to our own views just to provide balance. Columns, even those by associate editor Mike O'Rourke who edits this page, or senior reporter Renee Richardson, do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. That view is stated in the editorials. And today's editorial to the left of this column discusses editorials.
Some of these editorial-page columns we love to hate. As one member of the Advisory Board said, there are some columnists that he never agrees with. Sometimes they make him so mad he throws the paper to the floor in disgust. But he can't wait to read the next column by that writer.
Sometimes we wonder if even the columnists believe everything they write.
Anyway, we try to print columns and opinion pieces from writers of varying backgrounds and political persuasions. Our aim is to offer a variety of opinions that will encourage thought and stimulate discussion. In a way, The Dispatch Advisory Board member who asked if the editorial page wasn't designed to "stir up controversy" was right.
Our goal is the same with the cartoons that appear on this page. We seek to represent a wide range of views, some of them quite biting, we concede.
As for the letters to the editor, we try to run all we can in Open Forum. For a variety of reasons, ranging from illegible signatures to personal attacks, we don't run every single letter we receive. But when we can, whether the letters agree with us or not, we publish them.
One other word on letters: Except in rare instances, we don't attempt to provide feedback to individual letters. We feel that printing our comments below the letters would have a chilling effect. But we do concede that a well-designed response here and there might lead to more public understanding.
And, in the end, public understanding is what this is all about. Editorial pages are designed to help readers clear the confusion of today's swirling world.
But, hey, don't expect us to solve the Florida recount for you. Maybe Cal Thomas or David Broder or Robert Reno can do that.
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