Everyone’s got an opinion, so why not share them? | TheUnion.com

Everyone’s got an opinion, so why not share them?

The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

I long ago had assured our publisher, Dave Schmall, that there was no need for a disclaimer on The Union’s Ideas & Opinions page.

Certainly, if there were ever a community that understood the purpose of opinion pages, it is western Nevada County, whose residents aren’t exactly short of opinions or shy about sharing them.

But now nearly 18 months since he first joined The Union, I’m ready to concede that we do have a need for such a daily declaration (which you’ll find just under our contact information on the upper left-hand side of this page). After all, the kind of feedback we have been fielding from time to time over some of the opinions we’ve shared, often leads to us stating something to the effect of the statement now posted on this page. Depending on a single day’s content, folks file complaints that the opinions shared are either too conservative or too liberal, that the cartoons are off base or that the letter writer just plain has it all wrong.

Well, we might tend to agree — or not — depending on which op-ed or letter to the editor to which you are referring (and depending on which member of The Union’s editorial board you might ask).

So when a congressman is catching hell for a vote he cast or a writer states her moral objection to a law that passed or even if a high school football coach is taken to task, these are not necessarily viewpoints shared by The Union.

To be clear, The Union’s viewpoint is shared through our weekly editorial labeled as “Our View,” published on Saturdays after a discussion of a particular issue by members of our editorial board.

In fact, the thoughts and opinions shared in this column space, under my name, are my own and also not necessarily those of The Union.

So when a congressman is catching hell for a vote he cast or a writer states her moral objection to a law that passed or even if a high school football coach is taken to task, these are not necessarily viewpoints shared by The Union. The thoughts shared are those of the author alone.

It’s disturbing to hear readers state that one opinion is so far to the right that it should not be published or that printing a piece from the opposite end of the political spectrum has turned The Union into a “liberal rag.” And trust me, we receive ample examples of both, depending on the news of the day — or the opinions published on these pages — that spurs a writer to respond.

Speaking of responses, The Union has also heard from folks who desire to respond to an opinion, yet they have already had a piece published that particular month. Our policy limits letters to the editor or Other Voices submissions to one per author per month because we want to publish as many opinions from as many people as we can. That said, we have reconsidered our policy in terms of needing to respond to an opinion in a timely manner. We’ll consider such one-time responses on a case-by-case basis, if the piece to which the writer seeks to respond references his or her own earlier published opinion or the author directly by name.

While I personally am absolutely exhausted with the typical left vs. right arguments, these pages certainly welcome them with wide-open arms. And while I’d rather these pages focus on local issues where we, as members of the western Nevada County community, are often able to leave the political aspects aside in finding real solutions to real problems that plague us, what is published is what the authors write to The Union. We make every attempt at publishing each opinion offered, though there are times when a submission must be edited or simply cannot be published.

For those who would rather we not publish a particular viewpoint with which you take issue, let’s consider the alternative.

If we only printed ideas with which you or I agree, or those that The Union’s editorial board endorses, we would be telling quite a few members of our community that their opinions don’t count. That’s completely counterproductive to the cause of providing a community forum. I personally gain a lot from people sharing viewpoints with which I might not agree. I rarely enter a conversation believing I know all the answers in advance. How in the world will we ever learn anything with such an attitude?

It’s a sad thing that as we now have more information available at our fingertips than ever, much of what we consume as readers and/or viewers is tailored to our own opinions, whether by watching a specific cable news channel of like-minded political viewpoint or through Internet searches served up by Google and/or Facebook based upon what we routinely read or “like.”

Such “news” consumption can easily become so one-sided that it depicts an echo chamber absent of any actual new ideas or other points of view, leaving little to debate or further to discuss than simply adding, “Me, too.”

The Union’s editorial board members are proud to provide an open public forum for all opinions, no matter the political bent of the person behind the byline.

In its nearly 150-year history, The Union has been sharing the opinions of those who live, work or play in western Nevada County. Although I cannot specifically speak to the editorial policies of our predecessors, I certainly feel an obligation to continue to provide such a public forum to share your opinions — whether or not I or The Union itself agrees.

For the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have contributed to the conversation on these pages, I thank you for your attempts at forwarding the discussion.

And, yes, please do keep them coming.

Brian Hamilton is editor at The Union. Contact him via email at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 530-477-4249.

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