Newspapers must provide voice for all
Leada Gore, Editor
There's a quote on the top of this page that sums up many things: "Our liberty depends on freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Thomas Jefferson said these words and while it may seem strange to think they apply to a weekly newspaper in North Alabama, they do.
We've received some questions lately about why we publish some letters to the editor. The letters in question had to do with the school board and the school system and the handling of some controversial issues.
Those who said we shouldn't publish the letters have offered several reasons for withholding them: they make our city look bad; there are disputed facts in the letters; or the author of the letters isn't credible.
Answering these complaints isn't easy. We all want Hartselle to thrive and do well and be thought highly of by others. We strive for accuracy in everything we print, though concede there are often as many "facts" as there are people who believe them. And, while we would love to have all our readers share their opinions, it's a fact that a vocal minority is often the most represented on any letters to the editor page.
As someone who has had more than a fair share of letters written about them or groups they care about, I know it's difficult to read criticism in black and white. However, as a newspaper, especially one that cares deeply about the future of this community, we have a responsibility to publish as many letters as possible.
The Enquirer has a strict letter to the editor policy. We only publish letters that are signed and contain the author's phone number for verification. Certain prolific writers are limited to one letter per month unless a letter introduces new information or is on a different topic. No libelous letters will be printed and all letters are printed at the discretion of the editor – and that's me. As President Harry Truman said "the buck stops here."
However, when it comes down to deciding to print or not to print, we must err on the side of printing, even if it means upsetting some. Not doing so would allow a few to dictate what information is distributed.
There will continue to be unpopular letters appearing here. Some will make people mad, some will make people happy. However, this is a public forum and – except for the rules we've mentioned here – it's open to the public.
It's a newspaper's duty to print a variety of opinions, even if we know it may cost us in the short run. However, we are confident that, in the long run, a free and open press is what's best for the entire community.