FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2009 file photo, a pressman pulls a copy of one of the final editions of the Rocky Mountain News off the press in the Washington Street Printing Plant of the Denver Newspaper Agency in Denver. A survey by Gallup and the Knight Foundation released on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, finds Democrats much more willing than Republicans to see government funding help local news sources. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Editorial: Restating our commitment to discourse and debate

To move beyond the last four years’ divisiveness, we need more discussion from varied viewpoints.

By The Herald Editorial Board

From just about any vantage point, the last four years have been years of division, tumult and deep disagreement, not just about the policies of the Trump administration but President Trump’s departure from long-standing norms of governance that had been maintained by past administrations, Republican and Democratic.

For many of President Trump’s supporters, that departure from past routine was what they sought in a leader and why they had voted for him. For many other Americans, that rejection of norms was viewed as destabilizing and dangerous to our democracy, and why they resisted him from the first day of his term.

Among the vantage points where that opposition has played out have been the Opinion pages of The Daily Herald. And as divided as opinion has been regarding the Trump administration, opinion, too, has been split about the commentaries and viewpoints shared on The Herald’s pages and the perception of fairness — or lack of it, in the thoughts of some — toward the Trump administration.

We have heard those comments — both supportive and critical — throughout the last four years, but especially in the run-up and at the conclusion to the 2020 elections for U.S. president and other political offices. At times, particularly during appeals to our subscribers and other readers seeking financial support for The Herald’s local journalism work, we have heard criticism regarding perceptions of bias among Herald editors and reporters in our pages and online. And we have lost some subscribers because of those perceptions.

What follows should not be viewed as an apology directed at those who have canceled subscriptions, but a restatement of The Daily Herald’s commitment to journalistic fairness, accuracy and informed discussion of issues most important to our readers.

First, a reminder of the separation between The Herald’s reporting staff and its pages of opinion and commentary. The Daily Herald places a premium on local news coverage focused on Snohomish County, the surrounding region and the state. As with almost all newspapers, there is a distinction made between news articles and opinion pieces and — except for news columnists and analysis marked as such — those are kept separate to make that distinction clear.

The Herald’s Opinion pages offer regular editorials; local and syndicated columns; local, state and national commentaries; editorial cartoons and letters from our readers. Regarding each:

Our editorials are typically written by Opinion Page Editor Jon Bauer in consultation with the other two members of the Editorial Board: Publisher Josh O’Connor and Executive Editor Phil O’Connor, no relation. While subjects on national issues are addressed at times, the editorials’ usual focus — like The Herald’s news coverage — is on local, regional and state topics.

Regular columns and commentaries are written by local writers or are provided through wire services, including The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Associated Press and others.

Most editorial cartoons are also provided through two national syndicates. Along with a one or more featured cartoons on our daily pages, our online publication at HeraldNet.com also offers a daily gallery of editorial cartoons.

And significantly, The Herald is pleased to offer a forum for its readers to share their opinions and observations in Letters to the Editor. The letters section often demonstrates not only a diversity of opinion but an impressive depth of understanding regarding the issues in readers’ communities and of state and national issues.

As a whole, we believe that these various sources of opinion — supported by fact — do offer a broad perspective that seeks to inform discussion and debate on the range of topics that are vital to our democracy and our lives. But — to address the political elephant in the room — that’s not an opinion shared by all readers.

Each reader will draw her or his own conclusions about the diversity and fairness of commentary found in the Opinion pages of The Herald, but it is not an overstatement to say that the last four years have seen a political cleaving that has split not only along party lines. Support for President Trump divided Republicans — as well as some traditional Democratic voters — and that gulf has been evident in the opinions shared in the pages of The Herald, particularly those of columnists.

Traditionally conservative writers featured in our pages — in the past most usually aligned with traditional Republican values — increasingly wrote disparagingly of Trump and his actions. Often, while supportive of some policy moves, such as the appointment of conservative judges and his Supreme Court appointments, they have opposed Trump for what they view as violations of the rule of law and lack of respect for democratic institutions.

Particularly in the weeks immediately after the election and just in the last two weeks as President Trump refused to concede his election loss and insisted on repeating falsehoods about the legitimacy of the election, those fears of the grave dangers that the president and his actions have placed the nation and its democracy now seem amply justified. Those commentaries, from writers on the left and the right, provided necessary warning.

Wednesday’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris provides an opportunity for a fresh start on our political discussions, and The Herald is eager to provide a full representation of viewpoints, not just regarding the priorities and decisions of the Biden administration but on all aspects of the issues that matter most to our readers and their daily lives.

We remain committed to providing a range of commentary and analysis that — regardless of whether readers find agreement with a particular opinion — provides a better understanding of the issues and considerations involved and promotes civil discourse and reasoned debate.

The Editorial Board’s members are most excited about our plans in the next few months to further expand the pool of community members who provide commentary for The Daily Herald. We will be calling on a diverse range of people from the county, from all segments, to write regularly for our pages, providing a broader representation of Snohomish County and its cities, towns, neighborhoods and communities.

As we always have, we want to include Herald readers, whether that’s as someone providing an opinion or as someone reading them.

We have important things to talk about. Please join us in that discussion.

Talk to us

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