“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” — Mark Twain
In this vitriolic, hyper-partisan state in which America currently finds itself, I’m not sure we’re following the sage advice from Twain. Sure, there’s lots of distortion going around. I’m just not sure how open we are to getting the facts anymore. Can we all even agree on what the facts are?
I recently received a visit from an angry subscriber. After inviting this gentleman into my office, I was given notice that the East Oregonian was full of liberal tripe and was engaging in a deliberate effort to destroy our president. The question put before me was why the successful assassination of an ISIS terror leader three days earlier did not make the front page. Why were we not giving Donald Trump proper credit and accolades for all the good things he was doing?
I explained that our stock and trade was local, state and regional news (in that order) and on that particular day, the EO was so full of local news, features and sports stories about Pendleton, Hermiston, Umatilla County and the region that there was no room for national or international news. Truth be told, we strive for this result every issue. My visitor admitted he had already been exposed to wall-to-wall TV coverage of the events in question on Fox News and many other media sources that follow these types of national and international events.
The point I try to make in such cases is there are almost limitless resources for national and international news. One can even pick and choose the tone they would like their news delivered — with a conservative or liberal slant. But there are precious few media outlets that care about and consistently report on Northeast Oregon. That’s the niche the EO strives to fill.
A few days ago, the newspaper received a letter strongly disputing a recent EO editorial in which we predicted the ultimate fate of the House impeachment hearings, and suggested the best way to settle the question of Mr. Trump’s leadership was at the ballot box in 2020. In a message to our editor, a very agitated and longtime subscriber not only took us to task for expressing that viewpoint, but also made it quite clear that they considered the newspaper nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Trump administration.
So, depending on the source, the newspaper is either a left-wing, Trump-hating, “fake news” organ or it’s a right-wing, Trump-loving, corruption-enabling propaganda machine. Which is it? The answer depends on the reader’s personal bias.
As I’ve learned over the years, charges of bias tell as much, or more, about the person making the accusation as it does about the object of the accusation. Bias is often in the eye of the beholder.
The five individuals comprising our editorial board (listed at the top of page A4 every day) represent a wide swath of political and philosophical beliefs. Hence, we only editorialize when there is general consensus among the group. In a practical sense, this means that we are likely to anger readers on either the right or the left of the political spectrum from time to time.
If you subscribe to a local newspaper, thank you for your commitment to supporting local journalism and being an informed citizen. But dear reader, please be advised: If you have strong political beliefs one direction or another, it is not only possible, but highly probable, that you will eventually read or see something in the pages of this newspaper that will make you angry — a sharply worded letter to the editor, a cartoon that pokes fun at your political hero, an editorial that comes to a differing conclusion than you would like.
In this angry political season that we currently find ourselves, it seems that otherwise reasonable men and women are compelled to lash out at one another. So many of us have already dug in our heels and made up our minds that the intake of new information (facts) has stopped. We’ve quit listening to one another.
For this reason, and because the EO‘s primary mission is to inform our readers about news in their own backyard, we will temporarily suspend any further newspaper editorials from our local editorial board related to what is happening at the national political level. The rhetoric has become too overheated on both sides of the political aisle to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
Instead, we will focus on our local, county, and state governments. We will continue to publish syndicated columnists representing multiple viewpoints and who may hold forth on any number of national topics. We will continue to also welcome letters to the editor, as we do not wish to abridge the right of others to speak out publicly if they so desire.
Lastly, you may see a national or international story occasionally make the pages of the East Oregonian, but it will be the exception. Our primary focus will continue to be the type of local news and information that you just won’t find anywhere else.