The lion’s share of complaints I receive as editor of The Joplin Globe have to do with the opinion columnists who frequent these pages.
Too liberal, readers tell me, of Susan Estrich, Leonard Pitts and Robert Reich.
Too conservative, they say, of Patrick Buchanan, Rich Lowry and Larry Elder.
At one time or another, I have taken raging calls and received red-hot emails begging, ordering, even bullying me to drop just about every one.
Branding someone is always risky because no one — myself included — fits neatly into either political box. At times our liberal columnists have taken their own to the woodshed, and our conservative columnists have given their own both barrels.
Elder, by the way, consistently ranks among our most popular columnists, according to data we have here telling us what readers are following online, but I have had more than one conservative reader tell me he is too conservative even for them. Alas, Larry is done, at least for a while. He has decided to run for governor of California and has suspended writing his column during the campaign and, we are told, will not resume it if he wins. We will keep you posted.
Michael Gerson is another who draws frequent fire. Many accuse him of being an “East Coast liberal” and are surprised when I tell them that he is from Missouri, that he worked at one point for the Heritage Foundation and in various capacities for Republican politicians, and that he served as chief speechwriter and senior policy analyst for Republican President George W. Bush, having been recruited by Karl Rove.
Some readers also assume that because we run a column by, say, Pitts or Buchanan, that we must agree with it. Not so. I frequently disagree with our columnists too, but my goal is to present a range of voices across the political spectrum.
I don’t pretend to have answers to the many challenges that bedevil us, but I trust our readers to be intellectually brave enough to listen to all the voices and to gather all the perspectives possible and then trust they will make the best decision when it comes to supporting a politician or some position.
Whatever the views of our readers, I sometimes try to turn these calls and emails into an invitation: Tell me which columnists you want to see. Maybe you come across a writer in another paper or magazine. If they are syndicated, we will look into whether or not we can get them.
The second invitation is the one I want to focus on today: Join the conversation. By that, I mean I am looking for area residents who are willing to write columns on local and state issues on a regular basis. (We do not lack for national perspectives.) If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 417-627-7281.
But be warned: People who disagree with you will be passionate and not shy about challening you.
All I ask is that you abide by a few rules:
• Keep a guest column to 600 words.
• Write about the issue, not the person.
• Recognize that we reserve the right to edit columns for space, libel and factual errors.
• Respect the right of people you disagree with to share the same forum as you.
On a weekend like this one, we dedicate about 240 column inches to opinions. We typically take up less than 20 inches — about 8% — of that for the editorial board’s position in the upper left, and leave the remaining 92% of the page to you and others.
I urge you to use that space as a place to share your insight, your experience and your judgment on important issues.
Consider this your invitation to join the conversation. I just ask that you remember it is a conversation — among friends and neighbors, Americans all.