In defense of the indefensible

Sept. 23, 2022
by Andrew Meuleners

In my tenure with the Herald Journal, one page in our newspaper always elicits more feedback than any other page.

That page is viewpoints. At the beginning of my employment, I didn't pay close attention to viewpoints.

I didn't write anything for that page, and as the editor of the Enterprise Dispatch, I would get letters to the editor, but I didn't have responsibility for them. Ultimately letters to the editor, at least in my case, were always the managing editor's responsibility.

A year ago, I was elevated to the managing editor role after a series of unfortunate events. That is when I became intimately familiar with the viewpoints page and letters to the editor.

I am sure you all have read something on the viewpoints page before and thought, "why the hell did they publish that?" It's funny because there have been plenty of times I have thought that to myself.

Over the last several years, columns by my good friend and Herald Journal General Manager Dale Kovar have evoked certain feelings in some of our readers. I have received both good and negative comments about Dale's columns.

Viewpoints are, of course, opinion pieces. They are not news stories. Accordingly, they are not under the same strict evidentiary scrutiny we would require for our other editorial work.

Words are powerful. Words can hurt people just as much as any punch, kick, or slap. Words have been used to bring our nation together in troubling times.

They have been used to rally our people to overcome adversity. The written language has been used to conquer our enemies and to declare our freedom.

It also has been used to spread hate, fear, and judgment. Words have been used to suppress, diminish, and stifle.

That is why when it comes to the letters to the editor, I allow some content that others may not qualify to publish. I take my role very seriously.

I understand that I have the power not to publish letters that I disagree with. I know that I could say I think this person is an insane crackpot that doesn't deserve a forum for their personal opinions.

We as a company could completely endorse candidates and run very slanted articles, but what does that do to our integrity? What does that do to our reputation? 

Dale Kovar does not speak for the Herald Journal. Still, as long as I am the managing editor, I will continue to allow people to voice their opinions in our newspapers.

Once we start to suppress people's ability to express themselves freely, we become no better than all of the extremists throughout history who have tried to control and brainwash their people.

While others in this nation are trying to take away our rights and freedoms, I want to continue to see our communities be able to debate issues in our newspapers.

Remember, there is always a counterpoint to every argument. You have a forum here.

The First Amendment of the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

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