Of news­pa­pers and protests

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM -

Over the past week, I’ve re­ceived an out­pour­ing of both sup­port and crit­i­cism for our re­port­ing and my sub­se­quent editorial con­cern­ing a re­cent protest by a group of high school ath­letes.

To be clear, there are few things I value more than en­gage­ment with our read­ers and the com­mu­nity, be it af­fir­ma­tion or op­po­si­tion. The role of a com­mu­nity news­pa­per is to both re­port the facts of the world around it and pro­vide a plat­form for the myr­iad voices and opin­ions that make our Amer­i­can brand of democ­racy so in­di­vid­u­ally rich.

Whether you agree with the opin­ions pre­sented or not, we strive to bring a bal­ance to the voices we present, be­cause of­ten there are far more than two sides to an is­sue. As a news­pa­per, we must base ev­ery­thing we do in ob­jec­tiv­ity, even craft­ing what opin­ions are given cre­dence to ap­pear in our opin­ion sec­tion. We fail to be a neu­tral voice in the com­mu­nity when we give one side a voice and ig­nore oth­ers. What’s more, I think it is cru­cial to note the dif­fer­ence in opin­ion and ob­jec­tive re­port­ing.

We ded­i­cate a full page in the pa­per ev­ery day (ex­cept Satur­day) to high­light ev­ery con­firmed let­ter to the edi­tor, the most pop­u­lar syn­di­cated columnists and sub­mit­ted edi­to­ri­als from state and com­mu­nity lead­ers. There is no room for haste when con­struct­ing this part of the pa­per and spe­cial at­ten­tion to de­tail is given to make sure a wide swath of dif­fer­ent view­points is pre­sented. While opin­ions con­cern­ing this process can be de­bated, I be­lieve it’s cru­cial to let the com­mu­nity know the painstak­ing ef­fort that goes in to mix­ing opin­ions on a daily ba­sis.

In my short time here, I have re­ceived crit­i­cism from both sides of the po­lit­i­cal aisle when a view­point ap­pears that con­tra­dicts what the reader thinks, and I cher­ish ev­ery call, email and of­fice visit be­cause fa­cil­i­tat­ing a di­a­logue is a pri­mary ser­vice a news­pa­per should of­fer.

Opin­ions have no place in the rest of the news­pa­per, though. Ob­jec­tiv­ity is the only con­cept sep­a­rat­ing our news sec­tions from the opin­ion page, but some­times I feel the lines between the two be­come blurred when pre­con­ceived no­tions dic­tate how in­for­ma­tion is pro­cessed.

No one side is to blame for this con­di­tion. Rather, it is the re­sult of me­dia lit­er­acy be­ing out­paced by the avail­abil­ity of con­tent.

We live in a day and age where me­dia sat­u­ra­tion is the norm and many seek out in­for­ma­tion to val­i­date and re­in­force their be­liefs. While this con­cept is noth­ing new, the avail­abil­ity of dif­fer­ent out­lets is at an all-time high, which spurs a trickle-down ef­fect when gath­er­ing and di­gest­ing in­for­ma­tion at the lo­cal level.

I want to take this brief col­umn to both stand by the per­sonal views ex­pressed in my re­cent editorial and re­in­force the plat­form we of­fer our read­ers as an open door to voice their opin­ions, too. So long as what is sub­mit­ted is free of vul­gar­ity and I can con­firm you are who you claim to be, I can as­sure you it will ap­pear on our opin­ion page. I can’t be­gin to de­scribe how elated I get ev­ery time I get to pub­lish a let­ter to the edi­tor, be­cause I be­lieve it to be the cor­ner­stone of ser­vices of­fered by your long­time pa­per of record.

In­stead of get­ting an­gry and writ­ing off your com­mu­nity news­pa­per as bi­ased, I implore you to en­gage it and make your voice heard.

Ryan Phillips is the edi­tor of the Starkville Daily News. The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are his and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Starkville Daily News and its staff.


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