If you've been a regular reader of the Sun Tribune editorial page over the last several weeks, you will likely have read a back-and-forth of editorials and letters to the editor that were prompted by a speaker who came to Morris at the beginning of March.
I didn't agree with everything that was shared through the exchanges, but as an editor, seeing that type of discussion really made me happy. While some may think that an editorial page is best used to set an agenda of some kind that conforms to the political beliefs of one group, I've never felt that way. Instead, I think the editorial page can be a space for a free exchange of ideas and discussion on issues that are relevant and important to our community.
I must admit, the editorial page is one of the last pages I finish before we send the newspaper to the printer on Friday. My columns, when they're included, are often written on Friday afternoons when everything else I need to finish has been written. I write best under a deadline, it seems.
The editorial page isn't necessarily an afterthought, but it's also not a first thought as I start my week.
Even with my occasional ambivalence about putting this page together, I do have some ideas about the purpose of the editorial page.
I firmly believe that the best use of a newspaper editorial page is to foster a community conversation. Although writers of editorials and letters may not be sitting down face-to-face, the benefit of a dialogue through the press is that readers outside the conversation can peek in. Rather than a one-on-one debate that disappears after it is finished, the discussion in an editorial page can continue through time and be reconsidered as times change.
To have a community conversation, there have to be letters and commentary that come from a variety of political backgrounds and opinions. Sometimes printing these pieces can be difficult, especially if the content of a piece differs significantly from the few solid political opinions that I personally hold.
But an editorial page that only included pieces that conformed with what I have strong opinions about would be awfully boring and awfully limited. I have my monthly-ish column to spout off about issues that I think are important. The rest of this space should be open to opinions that are both similar to and different than mine.
However, in order for the space to actually foster a conversation, there have to be some considerations. Letters and commentary shouldn't personally attack other readers or writers - it's possible to have a civil exchange of ideas without name calling. And the contributions have to be relevant to a broad segment of the community or discuss issues that we each are grappling with in one way or another.
And there need to be many voices. A community conversation space doesn't foster discussion if no one can say anything. If you see something in the community or in the pages of the newspaper that you want to talk about - to praise, to question or to criticize - take a minute and write a letter to us about it. You voice is important, no matter which of the many sides of the aisle you find yourself on.