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Keeping local news balanced, keeping personal opinion out
Denise new

 President Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

Perhaps if Lincoln were re-incarnated today, he’d be a journalist. Because this quote speaks to me as a newspaper editor. We hear compliments some of the time, and criticism most all of the time. All we can do is our best to bring readers balanced coverage of local news, and remain dedicated to seeking the truth, wherever it leads.

We also keep opinions to the editorial page, which is always on page 4. I ask our reporters to stick to the facts, especially when interviewing political candidates and elected officials. We should and do ask them about where they stand on issues, and to explain decisions they’ve made. There’s enough “spin” coming from cable news pundits and the candidates themselves, both on the right and the left. We, here at the Courier, just want to keep it real, and keep it local.

This week, I unintentionally bruised a valued colleague’s feelings, when trying to get my point across; the point being that we cannot allow our personal opinions to distort news coverage. In doing so, I made my opinion about a certain cable news network quite plain. Basically, I said we cannot conduct ourselves the way they do.  (If you’re confused as to which network I referred to, just fill in the blank: “Crazy like a ____.”)

We have covered gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams’ multiple visits to our community. We will do the same should Secretary of State and Republican candidate for Georgia governor Brian Kemp make a campaign stop here. The Courier interviews leaders from both parties, as well as those who identify as independent or Libertarian. If someone is running for a local, state or federal office and they are to represent our residents or impact our area in some way – it is news. And each of them deserves our professional courtesy, and I believe they receive it. 

The Courier has been accused of being too liberal, anti-Trump and staffed by a bunch of “snowflakes” (meaning left-wing extremists who are easily offended, according to an online urban dictionary), by a regular caller to our Sound Off line. I would like to respond to these accusations from a gentleman who refers to this publication as “Your fish wrap.”

First, Patty Leon is our general manager. As I am editor, you, dear weekly Sound Off caller, may direct your discontent about our content to me. Second, you have suggested that we bring Jeff Whitten back as editor of the Courier… well, we all love Jeff. He has my respect and admiration, and he’s doing a fabulous job, in my humble opinion, as editor of the Courier’s sister paper, the Bryan County News in Richmond Hill. Any decision to bring Jeff back to the Courier would be up to our corporate head honchos.

As for this publication being anti-Trump, well, we don’t cover national news unless it impacts Liberty and Long counties. If you are referring to the editorial cartoons we run, I would like to point out that we don’t ALWAYS run editorial cartoons that bash the president. I also try to include both conservative and progressive views on the opinion page from our syndicated columnists. Most importantly, letters to the editor from local residents expressing their views take priority on that page.

I confess, Mr. Caller, I am a quiet liberal. I identify as a socially progressive, dyed-in-the wool centrist-leaning Democrat. My personal opinion of the president and his administration should not be expressed in polite company. 

However, there have been times that as a voter, I have crossed party lines. Like other Americans who try to rely on reason and research, rather than hyped-up rhetoric and social media fury, I most often vote for the individual who I believe will do the best job for my city/county/state/nation/world.  

Please, keep calling. We appreciate positive feedback, but will also take your criticism and do what we can to listen to your concerns. Whether we agree or disagree.

And by the way, using our newspaper to wrap your fish in is a good way to reuse a valuable resource – newsprint. And, fish is good for you.

Etheridge is the editor of the Coastal Courier. She and her husband have two grown children, a grandchild on the way, a teddy bear of a rescue dog, and a grumpy cat that guards the house.

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