I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion even when they are totally ignorant of the facts. Some of the least informed have a misconception of how newspapers work and the various functions of newspaper employees.
In a recent editorial, we joined 75% of the people in the state who believe that former Governor Edwin Edwards’ sentence should be commuted since he has served six years of what, if guilty, should have been a maximum five year sentence, not ten years.
Our newspapers and shoppers go into 225,678 homes in the state. With an average of 2.2 residents in each home we reach 496,491 readers.
We received nine letters from those who hate Edwards so much they want him to die in prison. For the life of me I don’t understand such people. Chances are they never met the former governor, don’t know him personally, are oblivious of all the good things he did for the state and the thousands of people of every stripe in it, are unaware that he never stole a dime from the state or anyone else, never murdered or raped anyone and they never ask the question, why was he the only man in the long history of the state to be elected to four terms as governor?
Yet they hate him. And no doubt some of these folks profess to be good Christians and some even go to church on Sundays.
Most of our readers are intelligent, knowledgeable and understand that the Publisher of a newspaper does provide, and has always provided, the Editorial page to express the views of the newspaper and not necessarily that of the editor or other employees in the paper.
News is written by editors, reporters and others in the papers and said news is written as factually as possible without bias or prejudice from the writer. This is called straight news reporting and the mark of great reporters. Some do and others don’t carry bylines of the writer.
Columns are written by individuals and express the views of that individual. They always carry a byline but do not necessarily represent the views of the newspaper.
Editorials are written by various employees in the paper and approved by the Editorial Board of a newspaper. None carry a byline. All represent the views of the newspaper, not necessarily individuals.
The Times Picayune in New Orleans, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, The Advertiser in Lafayette, The American Press in Lake Charles all have Editorial pages and not one of them tag editorials with individual names. Only the least informed believe editorials should carry bylines.
Readers can and often do disagree with editorials or columns and express their disagreement or approval by writing letters to the editors. Most letters are polite, well written and address the subject matter in an intelligent manner.
Others are written by mean spirited, vindictive people whose ignorance is exceeded only by their ugly personalities. Most newspapers will usually print such letters if they are not too obnoxious or libelous.
I am not the smartest person in the world but psychologist and others a whole lot smarter than me believe these people, for the most part are malcontent, envious and jealous individuals who have never accomplished very much in life, have not been in the arena and who like armchair quarterbacks, sit on the sidelines and criticize. Sooner or later they self-destruct as all haters eventually do.
I am happy to report that all my readers, well almost all, belong to the foregoing class: polite, intelligent, and have achieved much in life after having been in the arena.
Too, they are good Christians who believe it when the Bible says: “Judge not less you be Judged, Condemn not less you be Condemned, Forgive so you may be Forgiven and be Merciful so you can obtain Mercy.”
They will never be with those cold and timid souls who never knew victory or defeat!
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
That’s my story and I am sticking to it.
(Milo A. Nickel is the former President and COO of Louisiana State Newspapers.)