"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Online Edition
Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

Ben Franklin and the opinions of men

Fri, Mar 3rd, 2006
Posted in Commentary

Sometimes we print things people dont like to read. I guess thats the nature of a newspaper.

Sometimes people dont like what I write; at other times, they dont like what others write that we print.

And as the point man for the Journal, I am the one who hears about it. That is as it should be.

One reader took umbrage with an ad we published last week that advocated impeaching Bush.

He couldnt believe we would print such a thing.

I couldnt figure out why we wouldnt.

Obviously the ad represented an opinion, perhaps a narrow one, that a person or group of persons wanted to express. I could see nothing about the content of the ad that did not have a basis in fact.

Many conservatives and liberals alike are uneasy about the administrations wiretapping activity as well as the presidents support for a Dubai companys takeover of six U.S. ports. Whether this constitutes high treason or is an impeachable offense is up for debate. The advertisers in this case would like you to believe so.

Whenever I call my attorney to ask him to preview an ad or to look up statutes governing disclosure, it usually means that I have been presented with a dilemma: an advertisement that I know will be controversial, one that I know I will probably print, and one that I will hear about, most likely not in a favorable way. Most often, people that agree with an opinion dont let you know about it.

We do get feedback on the articles and opinions that appear in the Journal, both favorable and unfavorable. Most of them make it into print as letters to the editor; personal attacks do not.

Perhaps we can all learn something about the opinions of men from one of our great patriots, Benjamin Franklin.

In 1731, Franklin wrote an Apology for Printers which appeared in an issue of his Pennsylvania Gazette in response to criticism that he was disrespectful toward religion and the clergy when he published a poster about a shipping meeting that said that no Sea-Hens and Black Gowns [clergy] would be permitted. Franklin, who was paid five shillings for the job, wrote:

Being frequently censurd and condemnd by different Persons for printing Things which they say ought not be printed, I have sometimes thought it might be necessary to make a standing Apology for myself, and publish it once a Year, to be read upon all Occasions of that Nature.

Franklin went on to point out:

that the opinions of men are almost as various as their faces, as referred to in the proverb - so many men so many minds;

that the business of printing has mainly to do with opinions;

that it is unreasonable for any one man to expect to be pleased with everything that is printed;

and that if all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would not offend anybody, very little would be printed.

Franklin wrote: ...It is unreasonable to imagine Printers approve of every thing they print, and to censure them on any particular thing accordingly...

Franklin was a great printer and publisher of his day. His satirical lesson about freedom of speech, Apology for Printers, still has relevance 265 years later.

No Comments Yet. Be the first to comment!

Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.