Last week, we started our political forum. That is the method we have chosen to use during past seasons, and I have no reason to think that it will not maintain its effectiveness.
We have a series of topics scheduled, the respective party chairs select authors, and the News presents the pieces for readers. We don't control how well they write. We don't control if the authors follow the intent of this forum (which is to present the topics in a format that matters to Mason County readers), or if they simply pull talking points straight from a party website.
Our intention is to eliminate partisan bickering in our Letters by providing a valid forum. And we already said that. But, two weeks ago I had a letter on abortion. This week, I have two letters, each of which take identifiable positions. They reference the political forum in passing; but, still move ahead with making their own points.
So, let me make it clear.
After this week, and for the remaining time leading up to the election, NO letters of a political nature will be accepted. If you want to participate with the discussion, contact the party chairs and find out if there is an opening for an author. When the election is over, you can then submit your letters and I will use my usual evaluation procedures to decide if they are published or not.
We're not alone in having to deal with the many voices striving to be heard. Having attended many rallies and meetings during my life, I've learned something very important about what happens when too many voices start speaking at the same time - the voices become a droning babble, and no one hears what's important anymore.
It's vital in our political system that even the softest voice in a crowd have an opportunity to be heard. That is one of the most beautiful things about the continuing role of small town newspapers, we provide a chance for voices that will never be heard on a national stage to be heard on a local platform. We newspapers take this obligation to provide a voice very importantly; but, we also know that we have to be moderators of those voices, preventing them from becoming an incoherent babble.
One of the reasons I find most television coverage of politics so distasteful is that the many networks are competing for viewers. In doing so, they would rather provide good theater than substance. Good theater occurs when people argue and fight, talk over the top of one another, and create the impression that they know the solutions to all problems.
The print media tends to narrow the focus and spend more substantive time on hearing the arguments and developing the themes. It's hard to have theater when it's presented in paragraph form.
The media has fretted that covering politics is not interesting and bad for ratings. Unless there's a scandal. Unless there's conflict. Unless there's something "interesting" to see. Maybe it's not the subject that's the problem; but, the way it's been done. If we continue to allow them to fund their news divisions under their entertainment budgets, we're going to get exactly what we deserve.
When I was growing up, I only got to see replays of the Murrow era of news. I was fortunate enough to know Walter Cronkite, Huntly & Brinkley, Eric Sevareid and a host of other serious journalists that wouldn't last five minutes on today's networks. Now, the news folks have to be pretty, combative and a bit controversial if they're going to last. If they're not at risk of having someone punch them, viewers won't watch them. New has become indistinguishable from wrestling. The stories are just as fake, the actors just as rehearsed, and the situations just as unengaging.
We at the small newspapers will continue to do what we can; but, we also have rules. Let's all play by them, and allow the babble to subside for a while.
It’s all just my opinion.