Yesterday I responded to Union publisher Jim Hemig on his ‘January challenge’ editorial about the NCRWF’s ongoing ideology audit of the newspaper’s op/ed items. Mr Hemig’s challenge was accepted by two respondents – a liberal lady and Jo Ann Rebane, my wife who is the NCRWF auditor. Mr Hemig waxed philosophical about The Union’s sought role as the community’s “fair and balanced” forum of public opinion on issues near and far. Enough has been said about the audit counts, so my response covered a broader purview of what we might want out of our newspaper. Yesterday I sent in the following as an Other Voices submittal.
1) To begin, there is no one on the Right who is “mad” at you for what you publish in your privately owned and voluntarily bought/read newspaper. Being mad at the exercise of free (e.g. politically incorrect) speech is and has always been the purview of the Left. The only raised eyebrow from the Right you might get is when you print a matter of fact which is demonstrably in error. And then we simply do our best to let you and other readers know, in response to which you may still do what you will.
2) The recent ‘ideology audit’ of your editorial pages by the NC Republican Women Federated (of which I am an Associate Member) was a dedicated, diligent, if not a somewhat tedious work of discovery. The women did it to retire unhelpful rumors and allegations about The Union’s political tilt that caused many to loudly voice information-free opinions.
3) While it is the much advertised claim and watchword of many media outlets to be ‘fair and balanced’, that is not an objective that has ever been successfully achieved to the satisfaction of divers and large cohorts of the information consuming public. The notion of ‘balance’ requires someone to place a fulcrum under the long ideological board of editorial offerings. And a moment’s thought reveals that there is no agreement as to where it should be placed to obtain a broadly accepted balance.
4) The notion of ‘fair’ suffers even more from the slings and arrows of opinions that impact it from all directions. And showing that ‘fair’ cannot be achieved in any objective and absolute sense earned mathematical economist Kenneth Arrow the Nobel Prize (its youngest recipient) and the National Medal of Science. Hubristic outlets that lay strong claim to being ‘fair and balanced’ have either hidden agendas or count heavily on their audience being poorly read. Nevertheless, The Union can take comfort in such claims it is in good company with the likes of Fox News and others.
5) Having said all that, The Union does provide a commendable forum for a wide variety of opinion from all quarters. And I offer that it would perform that job even better the less it tries to second guess what is fair and what is balanced for the simple reason that you cannot, no one can. What an informed readership wants first and foremost from its newspaper’s editorial staff is a clear, purposeful, and, yes, biased statement of what you truly believe and why. And then let your respondents claim equivalent real estate to applaud or counter as they will. Hewing to the ‘middle’ yields little profit for anyone, for the middle can claim no unique principles that identify it, or even delineate its trespass to either side.
An ideology is simply a structured and communicable belief system that in its best expression is composed of a set of coherent tenets defendable by reason. And an ideologue is an individual who is willing to communicate and defend his ideology no matter how well or poorly it is expressed. In today’s politically correct speech, both ideology and ideologue have been assigned to the pejorative category along with many other former reasonably defined English words. But the real tragedy of political correctness is that it always reduces and sometimes even removes the informational content of our language. I respectfully urge you not to steer The Union down that muddled middle road while denying us your good and honest thoughts, no matter how subjective or opinionated some may consider them to be.
There was more to the feedback that the Republican Women Federated gave the Union, the details of which I would like them to clarify to the paper’s management. Namely, it addressed data recorded on which Union contributors seem to receive favorable treatment in the frequency with which their offerings are published, and also how the newspaper violates its own rules on the timeliness of publishing responses from people directly accused/attacked in previously published pieces. From the details that were submitted by the NCRWF, it turns out that The Union has a bit to go before it can claim to live up to its own standards.
I would offer as another, admittedly anecdotal, piece of evidence in that my rebuttal (here) to an entire column that critiqued me was not printed in a timely manner, and indeed, has yet to be published (don’t hold your breath). Having said all that, my caveat here is that since The Union is a private journalistic enterprise, in its own recognizance it can take either the high or low road in journalism. None of us should try to affect its decisions by seeking some sort of legal redress, but just take satisfaction in that we can vote with our wallets. I remain a loyal subscriber.
[24feb16 update] Today The Union printed my letter as an Other Voices column paywalled here. I am grateful.
[27feb16 update] My beloved wife Jo Ann more recently sent Mr Hemig a letter outlining the broader list of NCRWF's concerns about The Union's practices and policies to which I have referred above and subsequently. Mr Hemig, an honorable man with broad shoulders, published the letter in today's newspaper. For completion, the submitted form of the letter appears below.
The Union may be afflicted with Favored Writer Syndrome. I am a member of the NC Republican Women Federated and an entrant in The Union’s January Challenge opinion page audit. I wonder why Mr. Hemig focused only on the ideology audit in his February 12th column, while omitting mention of the practices questioned by my NCRWF colleagues during their last year’s visit to The Union. Then they also sought clarity on the newspaper’s special rules regarding frequency of publication and favored authorship. They also urged that responses and/or rebuttals to news items and opinion pieces not be held to languish unpublished until their content becomes, stale, irrelevant, or makes the author appear out-of-touch. In order to substantiate NCRWF’s concerns, hard data was collected, assembled, and presented to the editor and publisher. Although Mr. Hemig singled out the ideology audit, it is important to note that the other concerns also contribute to the view the community has of the newspaper’s editorial and operating policies. Finally, true to Republican principles, the women did not lobby to limit, curtail, or censor any opinion pieces. We appreciate The Union’s role in our community.
Jo Ann Rebane, Nevada City