“I was very unhappy to see half the front page of Fillmore Journal dedicated to a Trump supporter. I believe that rally was adequately followed in Rochester newspapers and television. It’s obvious to me where this newspaper leans. So disappointed in my hometown newspaper,” said a reader from Lanesboro, Minn., in an e-mail to me on Monday, October 22, 2018.
This was in response to the front page article titled “Trump rally attracts huge local supporter.”
Most of the time, Mondays start out with phone calls and e-mails from people upset about what was published on the Commentary pages of our newspaper. No matter how many times I state that the opinions expressed on the Commentary pages do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or this newspaper, people still place the blame on me.
I get it. And, I can take the heat. I am the gatekeeper to the content that we publish. I tend to be more of a freedom-of-speech kind of guy, so I welcome the eclectic mix of opinions expressed on our Commentary pages. It’s a reflection of our democracy at the most local level. I don’t agree with everything we publish, but I publish it anyways. That’s what a fair and balanced newspaper does.
When dissecting the anatomy of our newspaper, the Commentary pages are the only place you will find any sort of attempt to influence readers — by contributing writers.
Just because we published one front page article about a Trump supporter from Mabel, Minn., who attended the rally in Rochester, Minn., doesn’t mean that we are leaning in any direction.
When the President of the United States of America, regardless of political affiliation, visits our region and connects with our readers in some way, we have a responsibility as a newspaper to capture that moment and share it with our readers.
Included with this commentary, I have provided examples of Fillmore County Journal front pages as a reference to presidential visits to our region.
When President Obama traveled from Rochester to Decorah to speak at Seed Savers on Monday, August 15, 2011, we published three front page articles about his road trip through Fillmore County, Minn.
“Bomb Squad in Preston for President Obama” — Front page of Monday, August 22, 2011 Fillmore County Journal
“Chatfield’s presidential stop” — Front page of Monday, August 22, 2011 Fillmore County Journal
“Obama finds a little Harmony” — Front page of Monday, August 22, 2011 Fillmore County Journal
We published three stories about President Obama on our front page. Obama is a democrat, so I must be a democrat. Why else would I publish three articles about President Obama on our front page?
Fast forward to 2018. After hearing that many people from Fillmore County had attended the rally for President Donald Trump on October 4, 2018, we decided to run one story on our October 22, 2018 front page about a Trump supporter who attended the rally. I repeat, one story.
This must mean that I used to be a democrat, and now I’m a republican because Trump is a republican. Why else would I publish one story about President Trump on our front page?
Regardless of how I vote, I don’t let that influence what takes center stage on our front page.
That’s what a newspaper should do.
From what I hear from readers, our national media options, especially on TV, lean one way or another. I honestly don’t watch a lot of TV, so I don’t have a great point of reference. But, here’s what I do know. If you tell people you watch Fox News, they figure you are a conservative. If you tell people you watch MSNBC or CNN, they figure you are a liberal.
I guess one of my concerns with the way our society functions today is how black and white everything has become. “You are either with me or against me” seems to be the divisive mantra.
There is no middle ground. I’m not sure who is to blame. Is it the leadership of the 165-year-old dominant two-party political system? It takes two to tango. Or, is it the national media, as we often hear? The tail wagging the dog.
There seems to be a lack of trust in media, as though there is an ulterior motive to influence our way of thinking. Maybe there is good reason for concern.
At the end of the day, if we have our readers expressing their views, whether with enthusiastic support or grave disappointment, I know that they are reading this newspaper. And, their opinions do help us consider how we craft our content for future issues.