CNHI News Service

Opinion

January 14, 2013

Letters play their part in the marketplace of ideas

—  

 
“Why did you run that letter?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years regarding various letters to the editor that are published on editorial pages.

Typically, the people who ask the question are of one political persuasion, while the letter writer is coming from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum — usually the very extreme end.

My basic response is that we publish such letters because that’s part of what we do. Newspapers are supposed to provide outlets for expression, even if some people are unhappy with what they read.

I’ve always thought it takes some level of guts to read a newspaper. If you’re looking only for confirmation of what you like or believe, you’ve come to the wrong place. Read any newspaper long enough, and you will be offended.

Take me. I am offended by the fact my newspaper, the New Castle (Pa.)  News publishes a daily horoscope. I think this is nonsense and an insult to rational thought. But there it is — because some people like it.

As for letters, these are the products of the people who write them. Anyone who reads an editorial page can see the letters cover a vast array of subjects and run the political gamut from far left to far right. Whether we agree with them or not is beside the point.

Allowing people to express their views is an important aspect of a free society. And letters to the editor play a big role when it comes to free speech. Anyone who supports free expression ought to respect the fact letter writers want to say something, even if that means not exactly respecting what they have to say.

I think it’s important to understand why freedom of expression in various forms is protected by the First Amendment. It’s not to be nice and it’s not to be tolerant of others. Rather, it’s out of recognition that no one person or entity holds a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas.

Text Only
Opinion
  • taylor.armerding.jpg Warren's populist pitch on student loans is off key

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren's populist rhetoric pumps up students about their loan burdens, but she conveniently neglects to mention the real problem - the exorbitant cost of college - much less how she's benefitted from those high prices.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Voters beware of oligarchs and bogeymen

    Scaring voters to distract them from issues is a tired - and bipartisan - ploy sure to be in heavy rotation this campaign season.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Put teens to work by laying off minimum wage rhetoric

    Idle teen workers may be a national problem, but frugal private employers aren't the reason for it. Minimum wage hikes - like the one championed by President Obama - squeeze these marginal jobs out of the economy.
     

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Legal marijuana can be government's new cash crop

    Officials holding out against legalized marijuana may "evolve" their thinking because of one number: Colorado says it gathered $2 million in taxes from pot shops in January, as business was just getting started.

    March 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Banning a 'B-word' teaches girls the wrong lesson

    Striking the word "bossy" from the language doesn't help young girls learn to speak up or become leaders. It teaches them how to be, well, bossy.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Giving businesses choice is not legalizing discrimination

    The owner of a California gay bar should be allowed to refuse service to legislators he considers "crazy, ignorant or stupid." The problem is the popular double-standard that supports his version of "discrimination" while raging against anyone who disagrees with him but wants the same freedom.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama twists Constitution to cut U.S. military

    President Obama's plan to slash the military to pre-World War II levels endangers the country, especially when our enemies don't know the war is over.

    February 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Benefits of hiking minimum wage are an illusion

    The president's latest economic fantasy says raising the minimum wage will incentivize work, lower unemployment, juice the economy and may even lower taxes. All while businesses swallow billions of dollars more in labor costs.

    February 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Coastal residents should pay true cost of flood insurance

    The environmental champions in Congress took a big break from their moral scolding this past month with a gigantic “Never mind!” after their constituents discovered the law requiring them to start paying the true cost of living in flood-prone areas.

    February 14, 2014 1 Photo

News
Sports

Features