2017-01-12 / Views

Fitting many views into one peninsula

our opinion

“Vigorous writing is calculated to elevate the public, no doubt, but then I do not wish to attract so much attention as it calls forth.”

— Mark Twain in his short sketch, “Journalism in Tennessee,” about a one-day stint as a country editor. During that time he writes about being shot several times, scalped and thrown out the front window of the Morning Glory and Johnson County War-Whoop.

Certainly times are calmer for country editors than in years — and centuries — past, but last week did give us pause for reflection.

First there was the subscriber who canceled, a reaction that, thankfully, has been a rare occurrence at the Enterprise. Something on our pages had upset her, which we better understood after zeroing in on the exact cause of her disturbance. It wasn’t our coverage of a particular event or even a news story, but one past editorial.

By definition not everyone will agree with the opinions in an editorial, so a canceled subscription every once in awhile is to be tolerated.

Although we winced, fully recognizing that readers are the lifeblood of a county newspaper, Mark Twain might have been smiling.

Then on Friday someone from the other side of the aisle stepped into the office to say that several members of a discussion group he belongs to had considered canceling their subscriptions due to vulgarity in a letter to the editor published by the Enterprise.

We didn’t try to explain that someone else had written the letter; that was obvious. The letter should have been rejected, we were told.

We make it a point to encourage, accept and publish letters with others’ beliefs. The philosophy is that if members of the community harbor opinions strong enough to write a letter others deem objectionable, then readers and the Leelanau community should have an opportunity to learn about it.

What does it mean when people of opposite persuasions find cause to cancel or threaten to cancel subscriptions in the same week?

It might be coincidence.

The temptation is to say to ourselves, “Well, we must be doing our job if the right and left are mad at us.”

But that doesn’t say much about how we’ve been doing our job if such reactions have only now begun. We’ve made some outrageous blunders over our two-decade course; readers have, in general terms, waited for another week with hopes that we would return to our senses.

Apparently we have, for the most part.

At the end of the day we share the things that constitute “Leelanau.” A certain level of tolerance — for each other as well as country editors — is needed to fit us all into one peninsula.

And into one nation.

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