Of newspapers and protests
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.