Upon reflection, I need to admit that the Chronicle has been part of an unhealthy debate going on in this country over our national politics.
That absurdity of the debate has been played out on the editorial pages of the newspaper and in some of our Sound Off calls. It is time for it to stop.
You know the opinions I am talking about. One letter writer will make wild claims and then in a few days another partisan will write in and object to those claims. Along the way, they both taking personal shots at each other for being un-American or just plain dumb.
In the end, no opinions are changed and everyone ends up unhappy.
Many people just stop reading.
Over the past few years, we have frequently rejected letters from writers who make accusations based on their political filter and not on the facts. But we have also printed many letters and Sound Offs that have just gone too far.
In a most recent absurd case, two letter writers wanted us to sit down in a face-to-face negotiation so we could all argue about who is right.
I would rather explain algebra to my dog.
The Chronicle is a local newspaper that focuses on what is happening in Citrus County. I have staff members who have covered local government for more than 30 years and have a deep understanding of what is happening on the local level.
We have no such expertise on national affairs. We are not the arbitrators of the fact and fiction presented to Americans today. What I do know is that the bitter advocates on both sides of the debate are doing great damage to our nation.
In America, I would like to think we have a tradition of coming together to find consensus on our problems. We can disagree with great emotion, but in the end, we are still Americans.
Remember, it took more than 125 years for us to agree that women deserved the right to vote. Is there anyone out there who still wants to argue that men and women should not have equal rights? The great part about our constitutional form of government is that it can withstand structural changes that broaden the rights of citizens.
The American who lives across the street is not your enemy. They might be a citizen with a different political view than you have, but in this country, we live together and grind through the issues until we find resolution.
Today I am letting everyone know that we are going to tighten up the standards on what kind of letters to the editor we publish in the Chronicle. We are wide open for letters about local issues and I urge you to take advantage of that invitation.
The same standards will apply to Sound Off calls.
I want to hear about problems in our community or people doing great things. And it’s fine if you want to criticize or praise local officials and their actions.
However, we are going to be much more selective about publishing opinions on national issues, especially when it comes to vilifying the folks on the other side of the debate. We are not experts on the national or international issues and we don’t want to be.
In addition, we do not have the resources to spend hours fact checking many of the claims that are made in the letters or Sound Off.
I personally blame social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for the deterioration of our civil discourse. In addition, there is a new class of political professional who believe using fear and anger is a great way to win voters.
It might be good for the politicians, but it’s awful for the country.
We are going to try to be more responsible going forward. Letters on national issues will be considered, but once the insults and name-calling begins, they will be rejected.
We are a local newspaper and we want to celebrate, criticize and opine about the issues in our community.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.