It's Our Turn - A challenging week for an editorLike just about any job, there are parts of mine that are especially challenging. Especially during the political season. In the 22 years I’ve been editor, I’ve come to realize that if both political parties are angry with me, then maybe I’m doing my job. Or maybe there are lessons to be learned.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Like just about any job, there are parts of mine that are especially challenging. Especially during the political season.
In the 22 years I’ve been editor, I’ve come to realize that if both political parties are angry with me, then maybe I’m doing my job. Or maybe there are lessons to be learned.
The latest dust-up happened last week over a column about the proposed voter ID amendment written by Echo Press columnist DuWayne Paul. When I first read the column, I thought about contacting him and suggesting another topic because if readers want to address the amendment issue, they have to abide by our paid-political-letter policy – paying 10 cents per word with a limit of 200 words. But after thinking about it some more, I decided to let the column run. I didn’t like the idea of “censoring” the newspaper’s columnists, who, as we have repeatedly told readers, do not necessarily hold the same views as the newspaper. I knew that not everyone would agree with Paul’s opinion that Minnesota’s voting system, such as its vouching process, is open to fraud, but I thought they could state their case through a paid political letter.
The backlash was strong and immediate. I received several calls and e-mails from those who demanded full apologies from Paul and the newspaper for running a column that they described as misleading, inaccurate and bordering on criminal. They also wanted to have the same amount of space to respond to the column.
Meanwhile, a group of city and township clerks were putting together a commentary about concerns they had regarding voter ID – how it could put some people’s right to vote at risk and compound their duties as election officials. They described the commentary as factual and non-partisan.
In an effort to strike a fair balance, I decided to run the clerks’ commentary, with a note at the top explaining that we were printing it in an effort to help readers gain a fuller understanding of the voter ID issue.
The backlash was strong and immediate. I received several calls and e-mails from those supporting the voter ID amendment who couldn’t believe the newspaper would run such a misleading, inaccurate and partisan commentary. They demanded an equal amount of space to respond.
It’s not been one of my favorite weeks. I feel as if I’ve been trying to douse the fires of discontent only to discover I’ve been using lighter fluid.
So here’s what I’ve decided to do. Now that each side has addressed the voter ID issue, the paid-political-letter policy will apply for any future debate on the topic. I’m also advising our columnists to stay away from the hot-button political issues until after the election.
I know that’s not going to make everybody happy, including our columnists, but I’m used to that, especially during the political season.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.