Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Being fair

It should be the goal of every newspaper.

Publishing a newspaper is, however, a human endeavor and that unfortunately means that lofty goals can be terribly difficult to achieve.

Has the editor of the Plain Talk (that's me) been completely fair during his tenure in Vermillion?

Nope. I'm only human.

Perhaps I'm a bit selfish and/or bullheaded. Maybe I'd just like to see things done my way.

If I had my druthers, the Letters to the Editor section of our editorial pages would be a place where our readers could express thoughts that would strike a chord for civilized debate on issues of the day.

There have been times when the letters we publish have about as much civility as a WWF caged death match.

Except there's one thing about those wrestling matches that have always been a bit more fair than some of our letters.

There's a sense of balance to the mayhem when the Masked Avenger puts a Greco-Roman knuckle lock on Pretty Boy.

There usually isn't such give and take on our editorial page, unless by pure chance two people write letters expressing opposing views on the same issue.

So to be fair (and recognizing in the beginning this process isn't 100 percent perfect) the Plain Talk is starting 2004 with a new policy regarding letters to the editor.

We recognize the importance of the First Amendment right of free expression. We strongly encourage readers to share their views on our opinion page.

However, if someone's letter is critical of you, we'll make a good-faith effort to seek appropriate comment from you before press time.

If you don't want to respond, that's fine. If you do, we'll allow you to reply with your own letter to the editor in the same issue of the Plain Talk that the criticism appears.

This policy, naturally, can't be extended to every individual or entity that our readers may find fault with in a letter to the editor.

Should you pen a correspondence to us expressing your unhappiness with Tom Daschle or John Thune or the NRA or the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood or the EPA or any other institutional or corporate entity, we won't try to elicit a response from them.

But when Frank Slagle brings in a letter, as he did this week, ripe with personal attacks against a local individual, mainly Roger Kozak, we will seek out a response.

You'll notice that Kozak chose to write his own letter in reaction to Slagle's.

You'll also notice this policy change hasn't stifled the dialogue on our opinion page. It has, in fact, enhanced it.

It has achieved an important goal.

Fairness.

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