Ordinary Citizens Do Care

By Hayes, Larry | The Masthead, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

Ordinary Citizens Do Care


Hayes, Larry, The Masthead


An independent voice helps readers stay informed in an increasingly interdependent world.

In 1990 just before the Gulf War and in 1991, The Journal-Gazettes editorial board joined with Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, to host a day-long regional conference on international issues.

We brought in nationally known speakers - David Broder, Dick Lugar, Bill Maines, Randall Robinson, Rod McLeish - as well as academics and policy makers from the area. We had workshops and plenary sessions on a range of foreign policy questions, from the Mideast to South Africa.

The basic idea was to let ordinary citizens engage the experts in serious discussion on foreign policy.

Both conferences were overwhelmingly successful. Each drew audiences of about 500 people who asked questions, sometimes argued with the speakers, and otherwise listened attentively to matters far beyond their daily concerns.

It was a remarkable demonstration of interest of ordinary citizens in foreign policy. And it has made me ever mindful to be just as careful with the facts and scrupulous in my logic when I write on foreign affairs as when I write about the juvenile justice system in the county or school desegregation for the city district - that is, where local readers have some claim to expertise.

For my part, I can't imagine why an editorial page would not try to provide thoughtful and pointed commentary on international issues.

It goes beyond reader interest. What happens abroad affects us in this country.

There are policy decisions to be made. Sometimes, those decisions can be life-and-death matters for Americans. Readers need to be informed in order to register their will on these decisions with our elected leaders.

Moreover, we're increasingly bound up with other countries in a world economy and vast communication system. A newspaper is in an unusual position. It has the resources to draw on so that it can intelligently address foreign policy questions. And a newspaper, somewhat removed from political parties and special interests, can offer a more objective viewpoint. …

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