It's Al's Turn column: Insights from a grumpy editor
It bugs me when people lump the Echo Press into their hatred of all things media with accusations of bias, fake news and hidden agendas.
Sometimes I get grumpy.
Maybe it’s because I’m staring down the barrel of turning 60, but the grumpiness seems to be happening more frequently. COVID-19 and political discourse may also be factors.
Whatever it may be, writing about it may help. So here are some random urgings from a grumpy editor:
Don’t assume that all newspapers, all reporters, all editors are part of some evil liberal plot that will lead the nation to ruin. It bugs me when people lump the Echo Press into their hatred of all things media with accusations of bias, fake news and hidden agendas. A few weeks ago, one reader blasted us on Facebook for being “anti-American” and leftist for not covering a political boat parade. The truth is, no one contacted the paper about the event. We didn’t get a single phone call, email, news release or advance notice of the event. That aside, we still did a follow-up story about the parade with photos that were sent to us.
Please take a couple of minutes to educate yourself on the difference between a “letter” or a “commentary” and a “story” or “article.” The former two examples are a person’s own opinions. The latter two are examples of news coverage, written by a reporter, that contains quotes and attributions from sources. Stories should be fair, balanced and accurate (and yes, Echo Press reporters and editors do the very best they can to achieve that). Letters or commentaries are submitted to the newspaper by readers or sources. Believe it or not, such pieces can be highly opinionated. They can be biased. They can present viewpoints that slant information one way or another. They also do not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper. We print virtually every letter we receive even if we completely disagree with the content. As the Opinion page editor, one of my favorite quotes has been: I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Members of the Echo Press editorial staff also write “columns” that appear on the Opinion page. These are their own personal feelings. Again, they don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press. Those who disagree with our columnists are encouraged to write a letter to the editor or a commentary to express their views on the topic.
Before responding on Facebook, please take the time to actually read the story. It may contain details and points that you did not consider before lashing out on Facebook. It’s kind of like breaking into a conversation with no idea of what’s been already said.
OK, maybe that’s enough grumpiness for now. Thanks for bearing with me. I want to wrap up this column with a big shout out to all our readers out there, from newbies to those who have subscribed for decades, who continually support the newspaper. It means so much when I see someone respond to a post on Facebook that unfairly attacks the newspaper by patiently pointing out that the story had addressed the person’s complaint, that the piece in question was actually a letter to the editor, or that the newspaper shouldn’t be attacked for simply reporting the news.
Last week, a long-time reader sent me this email: “I appreciate all the hard work the Echo Press has done over many years to provide news coverage to the Alexandria area. It saddens me that people my age are now taking almost everything they see on social media as ‘the news’ rather than supporting the bedrock institutions like their hometown newspaper and other ethical, long standing ways to find great journalism.”
Now who could be grumpy after reading that?
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.