The morning newspaper has always been a staple in my life. From childhood to this morning’s paper, it’s been one of the few rituals I’ve religiously followed. Oftentimes I’m up before dawn making my way to the rolled up bit of news that’s been left at our house. When traveling, which I do often, I always grab a local paper to get the feel of that community. A newspaper, in my opinion, represents the community’s pulse, good or bad. Want to know if a community is progressive or stuck in yesterday? Grab a local paper.

In my childhood home, we grew up reading the newspaper, Mom, Dad, my two sisters. We all took turns reading both the morning and evening editions of the two dailies in Birmingham. I started out in sports and cartoons, progressed to news, and then became particularly fond of features and opinion pages. I wrote for both my high school and college newspapers and then professionally for newspapers and magazines for many years. I was and am interested in information that prods thinking and connects dots. Don’t try and tell me what to think, please. I resent it.

My childhood newspapers were neither progressive nor truthful. With civil unrest raging a few city blocks away in downtown Birmingham, the local papers ignored it.

They pretended the grand old southern way was the way of the world. As an old friend of mine often says about those days, “Good men and women remained silent.”

Today the local paper where I live wears its bias on the editorial/opinion pages. From mid-August to mid-October I counted 24 negative cartoon images denigrating the current President of the United States. Twenty-four and these are just the ones I saw when I was in town. (I was out of town over half the time). Now, take into consideration the paper does not run its own cartoons. It has to scour the country for these negative images. Somehow they managed to come up with 24 of them oftentimes several days in a row.

Okay, I get it that they don’t agree with or think the guy is a good President. But community leadership brings a responsibility of fairness.

Attack the man’s policies with truth and fact and insist that your letter writers do the same. Otherwise I dismiss it as bias. Your personal bias should never get in the way of your community responsibility.

[Bias: To influence somebody or something unfairly or in a biased way. An unfair preference for or dislike of something.]

Admittedly, the newspaper’s politics, business and life philosophies, I very seldom agree with. I’m sure many people don’t agree with me. That’s what makes us a great country. We can disagree civilly. Still we ALL, regardless of beliefs, want fairness.

When you allow letter writers to call the President, “a dictator in chief,” or write things like:

“catering to his socialist and ethnic base,”

“…more low class than ever,”

“…most corrupt administration ever known”

“…laws are no impediment to Barack Obama,”

“Obama has become the most economically destructive president in our history,”

“…Why have he and his communist cohorts…”

“Obama’s reason is affiliated with treason,” and

“audacity of criminal activity in this Obama society,”

you lose your own credibility. When you continue to do that everyday, you cast a negative pall on your own community. You ferment divisiveness. Business stays away. You become “talk radio” in print. Blah, Blah, Blah, us vs. them, name calling, bias, little to no diversity on the staff or in its thinking, and very little of value in terms of shedding new light on any subject. All of this paints a picture of our community for visitors and potential residents or businesses to read.

During the last election cycle the editorial page adopted a policy of no negative letters in support or against any political candidate. “…Keep your letter positive,” they wrote. “And please don’t insult our intelligence by attempting to make us believe your opponent is a lowlife unworthy of existence… We want to hear why you think Candidate A is an upright citizen. We’re less interested in why you think candidate B is a creep.” Somebody at the paper didn’t get the memo.

I’ve always been leery of newspapers with no voices from people of color and no different political, business or philosophical voices. The local paper does carry one black opinion writer whose opinions mirror those of the editorial page.

For example, on August 1, 2014, in the piece titled Black Political Clout hasn’t done much for blacks he wrote, “In my opinion there appear to be no standards of performance low enough for blacks to lose their loyalty to their black political representatives.” I wonder if the same could be said for whites?

There’s more. President Obama negative editorial cartoons appeared in the following editions of the paper on these days:

8/9, 8/ 16, 8/17, 8/18, 8/19, 8/23, 8/ 27, 8/28,

9/8, 9/15, 9/20, 9/22, 9/23, 9/26, 9/27,

10/1 10/8, 10/2, 10/4 10/22, and

11/17, 11/19, 11/20, 11/21.

I’m sure I missed some; remember, I was out of town half the time.

On August 5, I wrote a friendly, confidential e-mail to the Publisher who I thought I had a community/civic relationship with, expressing my views. It addressed community, leadership, enlightenment, a lack of diversity, the stagnation of economic development when you freeze out whole segments of your population and the role a newspaper plays in all of the above.

I ended by thanking him for listening and welcomed a friendly discussion about these issues. I’m still waiting to hear back. “Good men and women remained silent.” 

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