WE HEAR YOU
If there was any doubt that newspapers are alive and thriving, you should have been here in The Hammonton Gazette’s offices last week when we published a column by Mary Sanchez, a syndicated writer who works with the Tribune Content Agency. Our phones were ringing constantly—not one person was in favor of our column selection. Truth be told, I wasn’t a fan, either. It created a huge negative reaction from our readers and advertisers.
Sanchez wrote her opinions regarding country music star Jason Aldean and the controversy that his song, “Try That in a Small Town,” has raised across the country. Sanchez’s feeling about Aldean and his song did not go over well in Hammonton. And our readers made it perfectly clear that they vehemently disagree with the views in that column.
It would be easy for us to say we made a mistake and ask for forgiveness. It would also force our staff to go against what newspapers do. The first job of a newspaper is to inform. That includes presenting views that are sometimes different from those of its readers. By presenting varying arguments and opinions, we expose our readers to thoughts that are occasionally different from their own.
I mentioned earlier that I was not a fan of the Sanchez column. So why did we run it? I’m old enough to remember when my parents got two newspapers delivered to our home, The Washington Post and The Washington Star. Although my parents leaned right of center, they were open minded enough to know the beliefs of the opposing side.
I believe much of the divisiveness in the country is related to how we consume news.
Technology has made it easy to pick and choose what news we want delivered to our phones and computers. Rarely do the politicly opinionated left or right veer from the cable channels that align with their own points of view. And we’re probably all guilty of un-friending someone who has gone overboard with a response on social media.
The reaction to the Sanchez column last week was far from surprising. Hammonton is a town similar to those Aldean sings about in his controversial hit song. The community is tight and word travels fast. It’s not difficult to understand why someone whose views are the opposite of those expressed by Aldean to be negatively received by many in town.
Readers have a right to be upset. But understand the difference between news stories and opinion columns. Mary Sanchez is a nationally syndicated columnist whose opinions do not necessarily represent those of The Gazette and its staff. That message wasn’t clearly conveyed last week, and that’s on us. Touching nerves is sometimes a consequence of presenting unpopular opinions.
And while we’ll sometimes run opinion columns that you don’t agree with, always know that The Gazette staff remains committed to fairly presenting the news of the town and offering views that may spark some thoughts, both positive and, like we saw this week, negative, from our readers.
We also welcome your views and opinions in the form of a letter to the editor or as a guest columnist. Civil discourse is what makes this town (and country) great.
Now for an opposing view, I hope you enjoy Ron Hart’s column. He’s an award-winning author and his opinion piece appears below.
Keith Dawn is the publisher for The Hammonton Gazette.