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Pam Frampton: Republic of opinion

A variety of opinions makes for a lively op-ed section.
A variety of opinions makes for a lively op-ed section.

The most fatal illusion is the narrow point of view.”  — Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984), theatre critic

 

What fractious times we live in.

Of course, working in the media is rarely uneventful.

As The Telegram’s current editor of opinion and editorial content, and as a columnist for this newspaper myself, I contribute to and am regularly confronted by a barrage of conflicting opinions. Columns and editorials and letters to the editor are wonderful things. There are bouquets and brickbats, flying barbs and sarcasm, wit and vitriol, and plenty of teeth and roar. Ideas that make you think or get your dander up.

I enjoy it immensely.

Lately, The Telegram has published several commentaries and letters to the editor that have elicited vehement reaction. They have included: a letter encouraging people with addictions to seek healing through religion. Two letters about how it feels to be a white male in contemporary Canadian society. A commentary from departing Telegram reporter James McLeod who observed (among many other things) that, because of the fiscal climate, it is in the “economic self-interest of every man, woman and child in this province to do the same thing I’m doing: pack up and move literally anywhere else.” And a commentary from sports editor Robin Short who said of the recent impromptu Newfoundland concert at Toronto’s Pearson airport, that “the display only served to stoke the old stereotype of the ‘Goofy Newfie.’”

It’s a place where diverse opinions can co-exist side by side and where rebuttal and alternate points of view are encouraged and welcomed; a place that reflects the many points of view that are held in our community and not just opinions that we ourselves are comfortable with or want to hear.

What did all of these commentaries have in common? Not much, except they reflected what, for many people, are unpopular or not often publicly expressed views.

A person whose loved one struggles with drugs might be affronted with the notion that God is the almighty cure-all. Someone who is not a white male in North America might find it difficult to sympathize with white males writing to say they feel equity laws are discriminatory to them. Many people feel aggrieved if they perceive an assessment of their home province to be too harsh.

And so we’ve had a torrent of comments in letters to the editor, emails, phone calls and social media, including the oft-heard question “Why’d they print that?”

I’m not the sole arbiter of what we print, but I think I can fairly say that one of the strengths of a newspaper, and particularly its opinion section, is that it offers a place where people can come and express their honestly held beliefs in a public forum, with their names attached. It’s a space where people can take a stand, offer criticisms and compliments, or make suggestions about how the government can do things better.

It’s a place where diverse opinions can co-exist side by side and where rebuttal and alternate points of view are encouraged and welcomed; a place that reflects the many points of view that are held in our community and not just opinions that we ourselves are comfortable with or want to hear.

I’m in favour of physician-assisted death, now legal but once a hotly contested issue in this country. I’ve written columns sharing my point of view. But I appreciate the fact that not everyone feels the same.

On national radio the other day I heard a physician speak frankly about how she has struggled with physician-assisted death and how it conflicts with her own deep religious convictions, to the point where she’s considering giving up a career she loves and has worked hard for, in order to be true to herself.

Her position was as far from my own as it could be, and yet I respected it and felt a deeper understanding of the subject for having been confronted with it. There’s plenty of room in the media for her view, mine, and many in between.

Many of us in this business feel newspapers should strive to reflect the communities they serve, with all their many facets. These pages are one place where we can civilly agree to disagree.

And, thankfully, this corner of the newspaper is as thought-provoking and democratic as it is because of you.

 

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email pframpton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

 

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