Archive for Thursday, October 25, 2001

Newspapers a place for dialog

Keep those cards and letters coming …

October 25, 2001

A community is made up of many elements. The folks who live there of course. The businesses, the sometimes thriving engines of the economy. Then there are those who visit the community, some on a daily basis.

But at the heart of a community is the give and take of its dialog. Sometimes this dialog is actions, volunteering, etc. But nothing beats the spirit of listening to others, making a child's day by asking questions, talking with your spouse about how the day went. I had a colleague who explained it this way: at the end of every day, we all go home, throw up all over our spouse (figuratively of course), change clothes and get on with life. Only to get up the next day and do the exact same thing at the end of the day.

Every town has its city council meeting, at which inevitably, there's a (often self-appointed) town watchdog, speaking up at open mike. Local politicians have sought to maintain some semblance of order by limiting public comment to 10 minutes at a council meeting, perhaps rightly so. Nobody, including elected officials, should have to listen to the rants of one person for more than 10 minutes. (That's why I'll make this a column you can read in about 10 minutes or less.)

But this dialog, this give and take, is something that makes a community special. In the course of learning, one must listen to another, new way of thinking. We do not grow and become more rounded people by surrounding ourselves with information that we agree with completely. We have to challenge ourselves to different perspectives and viewpoints counter to our own.

This is why we love letters to the editor. Only then can we become a more informed newspaper and we hope, a more informed community.

There's a lot of attention on the postal service right now. We sleep better knowing Mattie Davenport and her crew are our local civil servants.

But now that Oz is virtually dead, what issue will De Soto respond to and get fired up about? We hope that we get more letters to the editor, because that interaction is our connection to the community. If you read something you don't like, don't cancel your subscription. Write a letter and demand that your voice be heard, not just by the editor but the community. The town square concept thrived for so many years not because people like the white gazebo, but because it was the place where the community could have its discourse that would be all its own. And is it wrong that we cover Mill Valley? Maybe, but the school is in the De Soto district, and De Soto residents' tax dollars are responsible for helping build the schools "over there." My belief is it's better to keep an eye on them and stay informed about what's going on with kids districtwide, rivalries be damned.

Feedback is critical to newspaper. Readers are a vital part of the community newspaper and we welcome, beg for and demand your opinion. This is your community; and this is your community newspaper. You have a voice in it as much as we do. Use it and let us know what we need to do better.

The events on the east coast are unsettling. But part of the healing is talking about the fear. We'd like folks to share their feelings as historians often use the newspaper to gauge a community's pulse.

This newspaper has room to improve. All three of the national networks called Al Gore the winner in Florida last fall, and I'm pretty sure any errors we've made don't quite measure up to that standard. Of course, there's some who say the larger error would have been having Gore actually win, but that's another column.

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