The Union has decided it has to state in writing what is obvious to informed and thoughtful readers: All of the opinions expressed on the Ideas and Opinions page aren’t necessarily those of the paper.
If you look under the masthead on the editorial page, you’ll now find the following disclaimer: “The opinions expressed on this page are those of the individual authors who express them and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Union.”
Editor Brian Hamilton wrote that management has grown weary of being called a left-wing or right-wing rag depending on the letters and contributed articles it published that day. The paper has said repeatedly that The Union’s opinions are expressed in the “Our View” editorials published on Saturday, but apparently a lot of regular readers don’t get it.
The Auburn Journal and Sacramento Bee don’t feel the need to run a similar disclaimer, but then they don’t have to deal with the residents of western Nevada County, where politics is a contact sport and few people are willing to listen to both sides of an argument.
They know the truth, and the truth has closed their minds to opposing views.
People would rather rely on fact-challenged sources like Fox News or MSNBC, or a platoon of radio talking heads who don’t worry about getting facts straight or being fair. Then there’s the brave new world of the Internet, where you can find validation for any opinion or position. This tends to make for poorly informed people with rock-hard opinions.
“We tend to apply lower standards of evidence to information that confirms our predispositions,” said Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth who has studied the subject. “What this means in practice is people seize onto these online nuggets that confirm what they believe.
“They’re certainly unlikely to seek out information to see if it’s true,” he added. “No one thinks they’re misinformed.”
The Union gets some of the blame for not demanding a higher level of public discourse on its opinion pages. The paper will publish practically any submission that isn’t libelous or too far off the tracks.
Most of this material is boring and poorly written, and a good chunk of it isn’t tethered to any reality that would be recognized by a thoughtful person. A careful reading of letters and Other Voices submissions shows that disturbed (and disturbing) people live among us.
It’s not enough to say that people are entitled to their opinions and the opinion pages are a reflection of the community. The opinion pages should be a forum for the thoughtful expression and exchange of ideas, not a sausage-stuffing operation where anything is acceptable.
You tend to reap what you sow.