Magazine article The Masthead

Ideologues of Any Stripe Are Seldom Satisfied

Magazine article The Masthead

Ideologues of Any Stripe Are Seldom Satisfied

Article excerpt

When there were several newspapers in every city, and most were the personal playthings of publishers with an ax to grind, nobody expected fairness and balance.

Most cities today, however, have only one newspaper and very few more than two. News outlets are owned by corporate chains--usually more concerned with the bottom line than with ideology. To survive, they must attract the widest possible readership, which means trying to provide something for everyone.

With some exceptions, every newspaper tries to be objective--if possible--in its news coverage, as it should. But editors of opinion pages needn't feel obligated to provide what broadcast journalism--overseen by the FCC--calls "opposing points of view."

If you're an opinion editor and consider this important, then by all means try to give space to a wide range of views. But see it as voluntary, not as an obligatory.

Your newspaper has a right to take a position and needn't publish rebuttals--unless you choose to. When I edited op-ed pages on the Philadelphia Daily News, a profoundly liberal paper, I ran columns by Cal Thomas, Paul Greenberg, Charles Krauthammer, Tony Snow, and other conservatives--but by choice, not obligation.

Their columns are provocative, readable, and entertaining. I thought exposing our readers to their views made our section better to read--which, after all, should be the primary consideration.

But I avoided the point/counterpoint concept because it's neither fair nor balanced. As often as not, rather than clarifying an issue, it obfuscates it.

For one thing, there are usually more than two sides to every story. The more complex the issue, the more angles there are. Breaking it down to pro and con oversimplifies.

Also, a personal opinion column--especially one in attack mode--can be more readable and more powerful than an argument that's researched and meant to be reasoned. …

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