Letter writer Eric Hawkins of Oxford expressed dismay that the newspaper “does not present an unbiased viewpoint to readers.”
He continued, “The newspaper has become riddled with articles that support the left and ignore the right.” In particular, a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson (“Pants on Fire Romney”) was bothersome to the letter writer.
“Regardless of whose opinion this is, it appeared in The Star and sported a picture of the author,” Hawkins wrote. “This leads readers to assume that the author works for The Star and the opinions expressed in that article are those of the editorial staff at The Star.”
For the record, Robinson is employed by The Washington Post, and like all our columnists — both local and syndicated — the views expressed belong to the author.
The same applies to Robinson’s neighbor on the Washington Post commentary pages, the conservative columnist George Will. In fact, the day before Robinson wrote his critical takedown of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Will column (“A liberal squeeze play”) published in The Star offered a lengthy endorsement of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority and a critical view of Obamacare. As noted above, the column is the opinion of the writer.
More interestingly, Hawkins’ letter kicked off a rousing conversation online. Some commenters grossly mischaracterized the work done by The Star’s editors and reporters. They found the hobgoblins of bias in everything presented on these pages and our website. The usual slurs — “rag” and the always popular “Red Star” — were tossed out.
Missing from the conversation by the critics was any examination of this newspaper’s front page, on that day or others. Those stories cover a variety of topics — crime, the economy, local research at Gadsden State, locations of Boys and Girls Clubs in Anniston, health and wellness in our community and so forth. All of those stories are important, and none are imbedded with ideology.
Then there’s the rest of the paper from any given week — weather, comics, sports, public records, obituaries, food, faith, feature stories, letters to the editor and so on. When we come to something that is part of a grand conspiracy orchestrated by the Obama White House (as some critics suggest), please let me know. Oh, and a newspaper editorial board’s call for a responsible, accountable and functioning government, particularly close to our grassroots, is not a liberal conspiracy. It is the ideal of all Americans, regardless of their politics.
The editorial board is staffed by Alabamians who carry a deep love for their state. They want the best for it and its people. They, along with the rest of The Star’s editors and reporters, answer to journalism’s call to serve as a watchdog for the people, particularly the powerless. Col. Harry M. Ayers, the paper’s publisher and president from 1910 until 1964, put it well: “It is the duty of a newspaper to become the attorney for the most defenseless among its subscribers.”
We aim to do that in many ways. We report on local happenings, both at City Hall and at the corner barbershop, at the local church and the high school football stadium.
We present to this community a picture of itself; sometimes it’s flattering and other times it’s not. Still, it’s an honest and credible snapshot presented in print and online.
If you don’t agree or think it can be improved, let us know. We issue a broad call for readers to lend their voices to this process. They are free to critique our work, to let us know if we got it wrong. Can you imagine other local businesses putting their complaint letters in a prominent space?
We think this is important for democracy, as vital as encouraging a debate that is both vigorous and civil. At the risk of stating the obvious, allow me to point out that the vast criticism about The Star was hosted on the pages and website of the newspaper itself. And we’re OK with that.
Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or email@example.com. Twitter: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis