Don Rogers: When there are no good answers
August 10, 2017
The Democratic Women had questions, lots of great questions.
My assignment was to talk about the paper's mission impossible: balancing between strong political worldviews in an inflamed time.
And by the way, my introducer said, Don's a Republican. Boo!
Well, that started well.
We know we’re a better community when everyone is participating.
No, it was great, a lively, fun and thought-provoking discussion. Besides, the real Republicans know I'm milquetoast, a New York Republican, the same as a damned Democrat in foothills California.
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The Democratic Women are a lot like the Republican Women in caring about our community, our children's future and the best for our country. They are alike in another way, too.
"Great question," I found myself saying more than once. You know what that means: Gotta buy some time. "Great question," I'd repeat. Think, Rogers, think.
The questions weren't new so much as difficult — true dilemmas with no good answers, and not just for The Union.
The national media have similar challenges, which they handle differently. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox are large enough to appeal to like-minded people. Certainly The Times offers a different perspective than The Wall Street Journal. Their business model relies on this.
It's not like that at all with us, a little provincial community paper. We're focused on everyone who lives here regardless of political viewpoint. And so we see ourselves as inhabiting increasingly rare space where neighbors can come together at least for a few minutes and get a glimpse of the wide range of views we hold here.
And there's our big challenge. It can feel like we're holding a sack of cats, and they're not exactly cuddling.
Nevada County now has about a thousand more registered Democrats than Republicans, reflecting in part a new wave of active retirees who are more liberal than the previous one. This community, once a strong bastion of conservatism, has roughly balanced out politically.
That's made our job a lot tougher.
When a Republican wins the presidency, more letters and column submissions come from liberal thinkers. And when a Democrat is in the White House, that's when the conservatives fire up.
Our ideal is to run a balance between the two. But our first fealty with the opinion section is to make sure that everyone who goes through the effort to participate is able to do so. We don't screen for acceptable points of view, though some submissions will fall short through libel, violating privacy, obscenity, advocating violence and so on. I don't envy our editor, Brian, who must make those judgments.
Still, we want to find ways to get your opinion in the paper rather than filter them out on narrow grounds of failure to agree with our own opinion.
Ah, this raises a fascinating question: What is The Union's point of view anyway?
Individuals at the paper, as humans, hold personal beliefs running the gamut between left and right and good-grief-who-cares. Believe it or not, Republicans, some are quite conservative.
Taken together, and especially with the full range of citizens on our community editorial board, our view falls in a middle ground and focuses locally. These days, of course, what's happening in Washington, D.C., qualifies as local because so many folks here are thinking and opining about all of that.
But why would I write a column, as I did a few months ago, encouraging conservatives to participate? Great question …
Well, because of a trap we set to spring on ourselves. Our focus is on local participation in our pages. We don't reject submissions for having the "wrong" political viewpoint. And we know about half our residents have different political outlooks than the other, even while one side is likely to contribute more opinion pieces than other in given periods of time.
So we run what we get, yes, knowing some writers will prove more accomplished than others, and some more polemical than others. That's a community and its wonderful, crazy cacophony.
We know we're a better community when everyone is participating. So we encourage this, prepared to nudge the right as we're prepared to nudge the left, such as I did at another paper when they flipped from activated to silent with the election of their choice of president.
And then, as here, some critics' fears of a "rightwing rag" were realized. Not because of us, though. Because of them.
Now we're part of the liberal machine, apparently. Only we're not. We just want you to get your two cents in, too.
How we convince you of this is a great question. A great question …
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.