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Monday, February 18, 2013

Conservative columnist resigns after Kentucky paper refuses to run op-ed on publication’s liberal bias

Conservative columnist resigns after paper refuses to run op-ed on publication’s liberal bias

While reading that spiked opinion piece - we say spiked in the biz because on a long-ago computer system, you hit the spike button to put something in the trash or delete it - it became clear to me that the writer had no clue about what really goes on inside a newsroom.

Not all regular opinion contributors are members of the newspaper's staff or hardly ever show up inside the newsroom while editing, writing and news gathering for the news pages are being conducted. Had he any real idea of what goes on inside a newsroom, he would have spiked most of his piece himself. For example, he seems to suggest that editors are afraid to open up the decision-making processes in the newsroom to the public. In fact, many newspapers - including this one - has invited various members of the public to view and participate in our "stand-ups," planning meetings when we schedule what will be covered and when and how. Why did it stop?

The meetings were too boring. There is no talk of political ideology and politics. It is about how we can get a photographer to the other side of Georgetown early in the day and to Aynor later for another assignment and whether or not the reporter needs to be with him, among other things, most of which are mundane even to the people involved. Long-term planning is a part of the process, trying to figure out which resources should be used where. Should we send a photographer and writer to Florida for the national championship game because a former Myrtle Beach High School quarterback is the starting quarterback for Notre Dame? What angles must we hit to properly cover Myrtle Beach's 75th anniversary celebration? Is there anything significant enough on the Horry County Council agenda that warrants above-the-fold front-page coverage? How close to completion are the investigative pieces that have been in the works for weeks?

Yes, I interact with readers on politics and just about every other issue in this forum and Facebook, Twitter and public meetings, including one I did this morning with my wife in conjunction with Coastal Carolina University and Horry County Schools. But my job is about opinion, so I get to reveal myself in ways others can't. If they could, you'd find out that plenty of my colleagues have loved and hated many of my opinions - just like readers.

And while I can't comment on the mix of opinion on the op/ed pages - which are distinct from the news pages - of that paper, I can say that I've come across readers here who have sworn up and down that our op/ed and opinion pages are biased and only (or mostly) print liberal pieces - yet nothing could be further from the truth.

When I press and ask them to detail how they come to their conclusion, either they can't or conveniently have misplaced their meticulous research, or they ignored most of the conservative pieces in their counting - as well as the pieces that can't be neatly defined as either conservative or liberal. Maybe that's what that guy did.

I don't know. But I know that there are not many companies you can make a public broadside against without some reflection. I've pointed out things I believe this newspaper and the industry itself needs to do better and need to change - something the media does to itself in a variety of ways on a variety of topics, I might add.

But that's not what he did. He took it beyond that kind of critique. Would I have spiked his column? Probably not, but that's because I have a high tolerance for all sorts of opinion, including those that directly attack me. I believe in the free exchange of ideas, even when it hurts.

But do I understand why that op-ed editor did? Yes.

Also, I also find it fascinating that the conservatives who are quickest to play the victim card - that they have been unfairly attacked because of their views - are often the ones who are quickest to attack - and harshly - others who hold an opposing point of view. It's funny how that works.

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