Monday, August 02, 2004

Freaky little town, hostility in the workplace

Okay, so everyone knows how weird my town is- the same kind of weird every mid-size town in the middle of middle America is. Lots of random people with random ideas and weird little isolated suburban families. Older people with axes to grind. Younger people on homemade drugs. It's pretty standard, really.

But what is really weird is the latest wave of letters to the editor. They range from diatribes advocating the revokation of citizenship to homosexuals and liberals to rants on the unfairness of traffic laws in what should be a self-governing society. We got one today from Bill Castle, one of Longmont's Elder Statesman types, the son of one of our most persistent small business owners, Ralph Castle, who had a gas station on Main Street for as long as anyone can remember. In it he describes why he chooses to dissent (interesting coming from an "oil" guy):

"Many years ago our founding fathers wrote the following in our Declaration: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
They chose to dissent. They were called traitors by the people who sought to enslave our great nation; we now call them Patriots. There is nothing quite so noble, quite so patriotic as to exercise our God given right to peacefully and legally dissent. I choose to dissent, Mr. President. The direction you have us headed, in my opinion, is guided solely by profit, greed and politics. I choose to dissent, Mr. President. My dissent does not make me a terrorist as your conservative attack dogs yelp. My dissent does not make me a terrorist sympathizer as your Vice President suggests in his garbled way. My dissent does not make me un-American, a suggestion your entire cabinet seems to support.
My dissent makes me a Patriot and puts me in a group of the finest Americans."

This town is gonna get real interesting come October.

And, as it turns out, there are issues with creating opinion pieces in the paper, even for our more senior staff members. Our biz editor was told by administrators to "stick to business" when he published a column on Sunday wherein he criticized the wording of such legislature as the "Clear Skies Act." Although, one member of the public came in to say he agreed with his article.

So this is what it's like to live in a battleground state.

But it does make for some awkwardness in the workplace. Journalists are officially prohibited from displaying their political stance publicly (no bumper stickers, no yard signs, etc.) but there is no mistaking us. We are all pretty vocal about it. And the one thing that we all seem to agree on is that it is more important than ever to be political, even in a field that is supposed to be neutral.

The media cannot help being politicized, because people are political, even if they don't know it. And there is no way that bias can be completely eliminated. As long as their are conservative publishers and liberal writers, there will be a certain amount of push and pull as to what a paper says about the world. Neutrality is no less accessible than perfection. But the good news is that the bias goes both ways. Mutual bias is almost as good as neutrality, in some ways.

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