This is my opinion, but it’s yours that matters

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 26, 2000

Novelists who only write about writers bore me, as do commentators who comment much about their comments.

Monday, June 26, 2000

Novelists who only write about writers bore me, as do commentators who comment much about their comments. Yet, full disclosure of bias and perspective can be helpful to readers who need to process opinions they read in their own minds. Perhaps I should do this occasionally. I intend my weekly newspaper columns to be comment of personal opinion on current news events or issues in the news with particular focus on social and moral factors in or implications of these matters so readers can formulate their own thinking and inform their own actions. (I feel the same about my radio and television commentaries.)

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In my columns I seek balance, honesty and fairness even when it embarrasses me or tends to weaken my argument. I argue against things I favor to eliminate flaws or strengthen what is weak – and to keep "us" humble. I argue for things I oppose both to "give credit where credit is due" and to be honest about the validity found in these matters. I do not intend and I am not aware that I "grind an ax" or "ride a hobby horse," yet constant appearance of an item in the news naturally suggests additional comment.

I do not think of myself as conservative, liberal or moderate. That radical conservatives perceive me as liberal, radical liberals think me conservative and moderates and undecided cannot label me both rewards and encourages me. All such labels are relative to the immediate issue and the context. I recognize things of lasting value and seek to conserve them, but I also recognize other things that are obsolete or even oppressive and seek to liberate from them. Rather than climbing into a political pigeon hole and then trying to live up to someone else’s definition, I wish to be both conserving and liberating.

When someone says "I don’t always agree with you," I reply or at least think: I should hope not! I don’t always agree with me. When someone says "I agree with everything you write," I worry about that person and wonder what I did wrong. What I enjoy hearing, and I do hear it, is: "You always give us something to think about." My goal is to get readers to think and then to act on their own thought.

I profess to represent no one but me, and it is at once illogical and unfair to attribute my opinions to any person or organization with which I might be associated. No longer myself an editor, I do not write editorials but "op-ed" commentaries. I am not on the Herald staff and (although larger newspapers do) it doesn’t pay me. What I write is personal opinion and nothing else. I like the title David Brinkley gave his autobiography: "Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion." In this free country with a free press and freedom of thought and speech, I am entitled to my opinion and my readers are entitled to reject them. More than being entitled to my opinions, as a responsible journalist I am burdened with an obligation to express them. I can do no less.

I write from a rich and varied background of education, experience and observation and tend to get into current issues to which I have had previous exposure. My principal qualification so to comment is that I read broadly, listen actively, question probingly, and think critically about what I learn. My extensive publishing and broadcasting record suggests the professionals responsible consider at least some of what I write worth at least something. How much it is worth to individual readers is to be decided individually.

The most effective and appropriate response and reaction (both are germane) is a letter to the editor, and I eagerly encourage readers to participate in this public forum. Although I, like you, appreciate courtesy and fairness, I am even more interested in reading letters that differ from my opinion than those that agree. The worst fate for a writer is to be ignored. I do not accept anonymous phone calls or take seriously unsigned letters.

So, these columns responsibility published by the Herald as a public service are my personal contribution to your thinking. I am responsible for my opinion, and you are responsible for what you do with them.

Wallace Alcorn’s column appears Mondays