It's a Big Tent
Long ago, I worked as a reporter at another small weekly newspaper with a commentary page much like this one. We would frequently get letters from readers who obviously hadn't read our stories and who claimed things we knew to be untrue. Our editor printed them anyway. We reporters would howl: "How can you print that? It's not true!"
His response was always the same: "It's a big tent. There's room for everyone."
We gritted our teeth. Often, those letters, some of them quite outrageous, would go unanswered and we would wonder, "Is anybody reading this? Doesn't anybody want to respond?"
Eventually I came to understand and embrace that editor's point of view about the commentary page, and I continue to uphold this policy here at the Crescenta Valley Sun. The commentary page is a big tent where everybody gets an opportunity to voice their opinion. As long as letters steer clear of libel, we print them. (We rarely have more letters than we have space for.)
Everybody has a right to share their opinion. Everybody has a responsibility to listen to the opinions of others and judge them against their own morals, ethics, beliefs and the facts. Different people see things from different perspectives and it is the responsibility of citizens in a democracy to try to at least understand-but not necessarily agree with-other people's viewpoints. Democracy suffers when voters are not informed, and part of being fully informed is understanding the thinking of people who do not agree with you on issues.
The commentary page is the big tent where we can hear what others have to say, and respond.
Today, our commentary offers a glimpse into just how big that tent can be. One of our letters will probably be offensive to at least half, if not most, of our readers. It is printed exactly as it came to us (with minor corrections of grammar), including the headline. I hope it is not overstating the obvious to say this letter reflects the writer's opinion, not the opinions of the editor, or in fact anyone at this newspaper.
It's a big tent, and there is plenty of room for all sorts of opinions-including yours.