Opinions: left or right, we’ll publish them

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Recently a reader objected to something we published on the opinion page.

The editorial and accompanying political cartoon addressed Congressman Greg Gianforte being photographed for a mug shot. Both were submitted by regular News-Argus contributors. Our reader was not amused.

It is …“time for respect of your fellow person, not hateful rhetoric. Think past your own opinion now and then,” the person wrote.

This isn’t the first time our paper has been accused of political leanings one way or the other, and I am sure it won’t be the last. From time to time, readers assume items on our opinion page reflect the points of view of those who work here.

Ironically, most who guess at the political alignment of the News-Argus staff get it wrong. It would be very hard to get it right, as we have an extremely mixed group working here, ranging from very liberal to very conservative.

But what concerns me about this isn’t so much whether people think we are liberal or  conservative, but that some believe we would use our paper as a vehicle for promoting only those viewpoints aligned with our own.

Actually, we work very hard to ensure our viewpoints don’t show up our news coverage. It’s a key commandment taught in Journalism 101: the opinions of the reporter have no place in a news story.

We go so far as to hold everyone else who sends us material to the same standard. To do that, we take a close look at whether the information is factual or not.

If it’s an opinion, it’s going to be labeled as such.

If the entire piece is someone’s opinion, it will more than likely show up on our Opinion page… the one place in the newspaper where we welcome points of view.

If the opinion is related to a certain topic – for example, agriculture -- we might run it on a page dedicated to that topic, but clearly labeled as a “Guest Opinion.”

If someone we are interviewing for a news story expresses an opinion, we are duty-bound to say whose opinion it is. That’s why we use quotation marks around their statement and identify who is speaking by providing their name and title.

We work diligently to sort out what is a fact and what is an opinion. To the great annoyance of some of our writers, we’ll even ask them to verify facts or figures in their editorials.

“Why do I have to do this?” one of our frequent writers asks us every time. “It says right on the top of the page ‘Opinion.’”

Why? Because we are determined to let our readers know where the information comes from, whether it is a fact that can be verified or is someone’s point of view. How else can you assess what you read?

As for that political cartoon and editorial about Mr. Gianforte: like everything on our Opinion page, both are just that…the opinions of those who submitted them. We run the letters, editorials and cartoons we receive without regard to politics or point of view, as long as they meet the standards for a family newspaper and are not libelous.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know and we’ll be happy to publish your point of view as well. It’s as easy as writing us a letter or sending us an email.

 

Deb Hill is the managing editor of the Lewistown News-Argus. She can be reached by email at editor@lewistownnews.com.

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