Carroll: No, Fox News has not acquired the Times
September 13, 2013
There's a special folder in my email inbox reserved for reader complaints. The remarks in this trove range from the well-tempered to the unhinged.
One reader wished that "for the love of sanity would SOMEONE beat him upside the head." Other readers have taken a more tactful approach, offering logical suggestions to improve this paper that don't involve taking me to the woodshed.
And ever since The Aspen Times brought on alternating conservative columnists on Thursdays, some two years ago, many readers have offered brewing theories that we're becoming a right-wing paper.
"Fox news?" was the subject line of a recent email to me, in response to a conservative columnist whose pieces run every other Sunday.
Perhaps it's not just the conservative views espoused on these pages that upsets some readers but the smack of superiority and smugness that occasionally accompanies them — because our well-mannered, left-leaning scribes never fire off condescending screed, do they?
Part of my job includes reviewing every opinion piece that appears in the Times. I sometimes cringe at what I read (just like some readers might do when they read this column), but that doesn't mean I spike the commentary or even edit out what I consider to be petty or mean-spirited. There are lines, however, that can be crossed — chiefly unsubstantiated attacks and potentially libelous remarks. Determining smugness or tawdry vitriol, however, is a matter of opinion, and it's a fool's errand to try to censor out something that I might disagree with or genuinely dislike.
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One of this newspaper's challenges is whether its opinion pages should be a reflection of the community we live in or a reflection of the community we want it to be.
If this newspaper's opinion section were a reflection of how we wanted Aspen to be, then let's call a spade a spade: It would be full of left-leaning opinions — from the even-keeled to the extreme. And it would be a pretty predictable paper. Our readers would be no more than sheep grazing from the same field. A free exchange of opinions and ideas is what makes for a healthy opinion section.
Even so, the Times' editorials and endorsements typically support progressive candidates, issues and questions. We are who we are and have no problem defending our point of view.
But while our editorials reveal our overall philosophy, this newspaper's aim is to have an opinion section that reflects the town in which we live. That is why we are publishing more conservative viewpoints. To the dismay of many longtime, freewheeling Aspenites, the town is no longer a haven for free-wheelers only.
But that hardly means we are becoming a conservative newspaper — my apologies to those conspiracy theorists who might believe otherwise.
But just as the local Democratic Party is immersed in politics, the Pitkin County Republican Party is increasingly becoming a proactive organization, showing a growing involvement in local, state and national politics.
Even so, numbers show that unaffiliated voters outweigh those aligned with a political party. In Pitkin County, there are 2,184 registered Republicans and 4,313 Democrats. Unaffiliated voters tally 5,381, according to the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder's Office.
In light of those stats, Aspen can still pride itself on being a progressive and forward-thinking community — affordable housing and transportation programs, along with its environmental efforts, are a testament to that. The data also prove that this community has a healthy dose of independent-minded people who won't be pigeonholed by one of the two major parties.
As a newspaper, we certainly can't please everybody, but it's important to get out as many views for the taking. And for readers, no matter what their political persuasion, it's equally important to know their enemy.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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