From the editor: More about bias, and another question
Now that the dust is starting to settle from Tuesday’s elections, I thought you might be interested in how some of you responded to my September question as to whether this newspaper exhibits bias in its political coverage.
I also have another question to ask you.
It was gratifying to see that every one of you who took the time to write said that we’re doing a good job at being fair and balanced (well, with one or two exceptions). You also said, loud and clear, that you’d like to see our columnists continue to cover issues beyond our circulation area.
I reached out for your thoughts after a Rancho Bernardo reader complained that he thought our opinion pages were clearly biased toward Republican viewpoints. That caught me a bit by surprise. In the nearly 20 years I’ve been the editor here I’ve tried to walk the line, offering opinion pieces reflecting all points of view.
Just to be sure, I asked for comments from you, the readers.
Here are a few excepts. I’m not including author names as I did not declare up front that I might publish some of the comments.
• “I think your readership would go down if you edited out letters, and opinions on state and national issues. Yours is currently the only paper I read. I don’t think I’m alone. I’m always astonished how many people I run into that don’t have a clue what’s going on beyond their TV set.”
• “Please don’t kowtow to the select few who are only writing to you because they don’t like what they are reading.”
• “We strongly urge you to continue running letters, columns and cartoons on state, national and world issues. This unbiased reporting puts your newspapers a step above other local newspapers.”
• “I have never heard anyone, Democrat or Republican, say the paper is biased. I do, however, hear a ton of people discuss how biased the mainstream media are — NBC, CBS, and CNN — leaning heavily toward the liberal side. I can’t help but wonder if the liberals who have complained to you are simply not used to hearing a conservative perspective like the one from Dick Lyles for a change.”
• “The ability for folks to share their opinions and thoughts on local topics and issues, (not just political) through letters to the editor, and to a lesser degree, guest editorials, has always resonated with me. It is something my neighbors look forward to every Thursday. Human nature lends itself to knowing what others feel in our community.”
• “Unfortunately, in this highly divisive political climate, people on either side of the aisle are irrationally sensitive.”
Now, for my next question to you.
Like most newspapers, we have tried in recent years to establish and maintain a strong presence on the Internet. Our site, www.pomeradonews.com, is updated regularly, including on weekends and holidays.
The site also has software allowing our readers to comment on what they read. And boy, do they comment!
The software is very good, but does not include any verification features, other than a working email address. That means the commenting readers, or “posters” as they’re sometimes called, can identify themselves any way they want through “user names.”
My question is, should we require online readers who post comments to identify themselves? Or, should they have the freedom to express an opinion anonymously?
Get a few media folks together to discuss this (as I did recently) and you’ll experience a wide range of thoughts on the issue. Should the Web be as restrictive as the print media? Would requiring IDs have chilling effect on the exchange of ideas on our website?
I’d like to know your thoughts. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a comment below.
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