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The Value of Opinion Pages


My childhood was unusual in that I spent a great deal of time around a diverse crew of adults, many of whom were argumentative.

My parents entertained large gatherings of friends at least twice a month. Dozens of people congregated in our home to eat, sometimes sing and always to hold forth about books, movies and events in the news. These were young and old people of various ethnic backgrounds; strait-laced types and freaks; conservatives and liberals and pinkos; minds that were meticulous and orderly next to minds that were unmanaged wilderness; engineers, teachers, artists, musicians and a few people who had not figured out what to do with themselves.

Sometimes I postponed bedtime by simply disappearing into the crowd, and I found willing conspirators, adults happy to converse with a curious child. When I got caught and sent to bed, I listened to their voices and loud laughter into the night: How they loved one another!

It was in this atmosphere that I formed my impressions about opinion itself. Opinions were things to be kicked around like a soccer ball, to interact with friends and new people, try out an idea or even discover one’s own thoughts about a subject. The arguments sometimes got heated but rarely personal. My earliest observation of my father’s character was that he didn’t mind when people disagreed with him, but he had little patience for hokum. Poor arguments offended him.

It is in a similar spirit that I value opinion journalism. Over a lifetime reading newspapers, I have always perused the opinion pages, curious about the paper’s editorials, its contributors and what letters have been addressed to the editor.

The decline of opinion sections is a symptom of the decline of local newspapers under conglomerate ownership that has slashed editorial budgets and staff across the country. As some newspapers axe their opinion sections, they surrender part of local news’ mission to promote civic conversation and provide a venue for different voices in a community.

Let us have a lively opinion section; may it be as robust, jubilant and varied as those gatherings of my childhood while sharing something of my father’s disdain for hooey. This is not a space for lies, hateful speech and ad hominem attacks (which target a person instead of their proposition).

The Bulletin takes its readers seriously, and that extends to how we approach op-eds (opinion essays appearing opposite editorials) as well as reviews, such as David Salcido’s review of a local dance company’s latest work in our arts section. Our desire is to offer good writing, interesting ideas, potential solutions or new approaches to problems, and a little humor adds zest. We are not interested in character attacks and don’t think our readers are, either.

If you have expertise in an area journalism gets wrong or is generally misunderstood, especially if it involves an issue in the news, consider writing and submitting it. When sharing a political opinion, try leaving familiar talking points aside and discuss your own ethical preferences and how you came by them; this is more personal and interesting. If one of our stories sparks an opinion, do share it with us as a letter. We love receiving these and will consider them for publication. (Feel free to ask for more information, too. Email editor@lascrucesbulletin.com, or even send a postal letter.)

It also lets us know that you are reading and considering what we offer you in the Bulletin. This is something media conglomerates undervalue, and it shows in the newspapers that lie, half-chewed, in their mouths.

Desert Sage, Opinion