Letters are a public forum; opinions on both sides need to be expressed
Over the past week, there’s been a bit of a firestorm on social media with regards to a letter to the editor published in the May 7 Hampton Chronicle.
We believe the letter was written to contradict an editorial written by our Chronicle staff with regards to pro-diversity entitled “Many opportunities exist within Hampton’s diverse population.” This also ties with the diversity discussion by Norma Ramirez de Miess which received front page coverage in the Chronicle on April 30.
When writers pen a piece in opposition to something we write on the editorial page, we allow a little more latitude when it comes to publication. You see, the opinion page is designed to foster debate and discussion on issues. It’s not designed to squelch it.
Some have felt that we should not have published the letter to the editor.
I respectfully disagree. In fact, as the week has progressed, I’m even more convinced we made the right decision.
Here’s why…. by not publishing it and not letting the writer have a voice, it turns this newspaper into a single viewpoint publication – if you don’t agree with what we say or what you read, you can’t be published. Quite truthfully, I’m not about to do that.
That’s the crux here folks. Agree or disagree, people should be able to express their opinion. That’s why the U.S. Constitution has the First Amendment.
The writer of the May 7 letter to the editor has written on inflammatory topics in the past, we all know that. Have we published them? Yes. Will we publish them in the future? Quite possibly, as long as they are topical and relate to current events happening in our local community, state or nation. Why shouldn’t she be able to express her opinion, too?
Do we agree with what the writer wrote? Truthfully, we don’t. But that’s OK, too. That’s what the paper’s opinion page is for. I look at it more as a public forum with some standardized restraints.
Each week in the print edition on our opinion page there is a box in the upper left-hand corner. In that box, the last sentence reads as follows: “All personal columns and letters on this page are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Hampton Chronicle.”
Sometimes airing the dirty laundry can benefit our community. By getting these types of things out in the open, whether we like to hear it or not, allows the community to continue to foster its diversity.
So, with that said, for those who wish to have a pro-diversity point of view, we’re happy to accept your letters, too.
If someone would like to discuss the matter with me further, my office is always open. My email box is available, and I’m always happy to visit with you over the phone even if we don’t always agree on an issue.
That’s OK, too. Because whether we agree or disagree about issues, that’s what opinions are for.
You see, for Hampton to move forward in the way we’d all like it to, getting things like this out in the open need to occur.
So, now the decision is up to the citizens of Hampton. Are we going to allow folks like last week’s writer set the community back, or are we going to use her letter as an impetus to move the community forward?
It’s up to you.
Ryan Harvey is the president and CEO of Mid-America Publishing and the publisher of the Hampton Chronicle.