Letters Unfair policy

To the editor:

In your Jan. 9 Plain Talk editorial, you announced a new Letter to the Editor policy. Your new policy is inspired by your desire for fairness, you said. From now on, when one citizen writes a letter "critical" of another, the person criticized will be contacted and allowed to respond in the same paper.

What apparently prompted your new "Fairness Doctrine" was that citizen Frank Slagle wrote to commend other citizens for "keeping a watchful eye on the city council and, more specifically, Mayor Kozak." Slagle believes citizen watchfulness is a good idea, partly because, he said, he had "seen Mayor Kozak make public statements that I knew were not correct."

Apparently, in your eyes, the letter writer had committed an unpardonable sin. You were so appalled, in fact, that with no hint of irony, you attacked Mr. Slagle in your editorial, describing his rather mild letter as "ripe with personal attacks against an individual." Does it matter that that individual is the mayor, who voluntarily occupies a territory that often brings with it a certain public scrutiny?

Not satisfied with personally chastising the writer for criticizing city government, your new policy allowed the mayor to join in. The mayor implied that Mr. Slagle was motivated by "negative energy being expended to tear things down."

So that's the new policy. Bite and you will be bitten back. Twice. But wait. If we read on, we find that the Fairness Doctrine will not apply to everyone. You will decide who gets to reply and who does not, and the policy will not apply to you.

Not surprisingly, there were no letters to the editor in the next issue, which is too bad; I think citizen discourse is healthy, and should be encouraged. I find wisdom in the words of Thomas Jefferson: "When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe."

But if you must control public discussion by the Fairness Doctrine you have prescribed, shouldn't it at least be fair? Shouldn't Mr. Slagle, or others you frequently criticize, such as Rep. B.J. Nesselhuf, be allowed to respond to your attacks on them? Or would applying your rule to yourself be taking fairness too far?

Sincerely yours,

Jerry Wilson


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