Of opinions and editorial pages

Are opinion pages still relevant in local newspapers? Are there certain topics that should be off limits when it comes to the editorial pages?
These are a pair of questions that recently came up among a group of weekly newspaper editors and publishers both in this state and in a group known as the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE), of which the Custer County Chronicle is a member.
One ISWNE member told an anecdote of a reporter at his newspaper telling him there was no place for an opinion page in newspapers anymore. It brought swift reaction from ISWNE editors near and far, with the vast majority thinking it bordered on criminal to have a newspaper without an opinion page.
“You might remind your reporter that without opinion pages, there would be no United States of America,” one responded. “Newspapers without opinion pages are destined to fail...yesterday, today and in the future.”
Many others wrote that their opinion pages are the best-read parts of their paper. We would like to think the opinion pages are one of the best read parts of our paper as well. Although, we’re sure nothing will knock the Sheriff’s Log off that perch.
Our friend Jeremy Waltner of the Freeman Courier also dove into this topic in one of his editorials, wrote about what is permitted on an opinion page and what is not, and if the opinion page served as a constructive way to move conversations forward and give opinions or simply as a place to attack each other and to attack the paper for taking a side on a divisive topic.
“That’s the question The Courier is asking in these times of deep conflict, and prompting a re-evaluation of what is written in the newspapers’ editorial and op-ed pages. In other words, are there some subjects that should simply be off the table?” Waltner wrote.
This is where we are in public discourse. People are so vitriolic about things they disagree with it is driving newspapers to reconsider even writing an opinion for fear of the wrath of the person who may disagree with it.
Waltner wrote in a later editorial that most people who gave requested feedback on the issue said they did not want to lose the opinion page.
“Please do not join the cancel culture of today,” one reader wrote privately. “It is bad for America, the First Amendment and bringing unity. Your paper is unique for that very reason — that all voices are heard and none censored.”
We here at the Chronicle also take pride in letting every voice be heard, and giving differing opinions on a subject. But the backlash can wear on us. If we write something negative about Donald Trump on this page we are a liberal rag. The next week if we write that rioters shouldn’t burn down a CVS while “protesting” we are a conservative rag. We’ve literally been called both within two weeks of each other.
We would like to think as long as there is a Custer County Chronicle, there will be an opinion page. If you don’t like an opinion on this page, that’s your right. But we believe every voice should have a chance to be heard (with the obvious and common sense exceptions of outright slander, bullying, etc.) and heard on this page. You don’t have to agree with the opinions, but our country was founded on free speech and a free press.
We simply can’t imagine a newspaper without an editorial page, and we hope you can’t imagine it either.

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