Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Informed opinions

I must say, there are times when I put the daily paper down after having read the opinion page when I don’t feel very good about my Dayton neighbors.  Comments that demonize whole classes of people as less-than-worthless Americans makes me shake my head and wonder what kind of world we not only live in, but are leaving to our grandchildren.  

Informed opinions, I think, are key to the process of making the world a better place for everybody.  

One aspect of the daily newspaper that I always enjoyed perusing was the newspaper’s opinion on issues.  These are the people, after all, who are out interviewing folks and trying to get to the bottom of issues by ferreting out the facts.  

Oddly enough, in recent changes the Dayton Daily News has opted out of writing regular editorials.  Instead, they ask readers what they think about the issues, then assemble a variety of public opinion to print on the editorial page.  

Don’t get me wrong:  I like letters to the editor, even if I shake my head when I’m done reading.  Still, public opinion does not take the place of the newspaper’s thought process. 

With that in mind, I wrote a letter the other day to Julia Wallace, editor of the Dayton Daily News, expressing my disappointment with the paper’s new practice of running only syndicated columnists and ‘letters to the editor.’  

I thought I’d share it with you: 

Dear Ms. Wallace:   

I am a dedicated fan of local news and, therefore, a subscriber of the Dayton Daily News.  As a former Journal Herald newspaper carrier in my youth and a retired teacher who employed Newspaper in Education issues in my high school history classrooms, I’ve not only used the Dayton Daily News myself, but encouraged my students to be aware of its value as well. 

That being said, sometimes I’m a little slow on the pick-up.  I just realized that recent changes to the Dayton Daily News editorial page leaves readers without opinions regularly written by DDN editorialists. 

I understand that the editorial department queries readers for their opinions on a variety of subjects and publishes them.  This practice certainly continues a long and proud tradition of giving Miami Valley residents and others a venue to publish and have their voices heard. 

But asking residents their opinions is not the same as the Dayton Daily News publishing its own viewpoint.  As a newspaper actively gathering news and therefore aware of trends and practices in local governance and business through news gathering and interviewing decision makers, your writing staff is in the unique position to understand more than the rest of us about what is really going on. 

I find your investigative reporting crucial.  Answering the all important who, what, where, when, and why questions provides readers with the information needed to comprehend issues.  Still, I would like to know what you -- meaning your editorial department -- think about what is happening.

Tonight on televised news, a report quoted a number of Virginia newspapers’ opinions on the questionable behavior of their governor.  I realized then that the Dayton Daily News no longer has the capability for synthesizing and explaining government practices via editorial columns.  

I, for one, am disappointed as well that the Dayton Daily News has given up the progressive bias of your founding editor, James M. Cox.  In today’s news, I recognize the practice of giving editorial voice to both sides in the persons of syndicated columnists and cartoonists.  As a Democrat, I miss the Dayton Daily News’ leaning to the left.  I am sure in this day and age Mike Peters would never have been given the editorial cartooning post at the News.  My guess is, the DDN would not even have an editorial cartoonist and just print syndicated postings for fear of being called a liberal rag by conservative critics.  

I think that the opinion of the Dayton Daily News is important to many of us in the Miami Valley.  We certainly don’t need to agree, but to read the opinion of the local print standard that has by definition paid attention to all the details, is a most valuable service to the Miami Valley community.  I feel that by your withdrawing from this practice/responsibility, the Dayton Daily News has left our hometown area diminished.  


Today’s elder idea:   Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits. 

Mark Twain