Your opinions count

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 29, 2004

I managed to get out of Suffolk for a relaxing week at the beach, which I enjoyed tremendously despite an arthritic heel that kept me immobilized for much of the week.

Despite my best intentions, I confess I did not spend a lot of time reading e-mails. I scanned the list each day for anything from my bosses, but other than that, I figured anything else could wait. Patricia Cornwell’s book about Jack the Ripper I picked up in the discount bin at Walden books was much more alluring.

As such, on Saturday afternoon as I write this, I just completed going through some 400 e-mails, most of which I forwarded on to others here in the building – effective delegation is important.

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Included among the voluminous correspondence were several letters to the editor – I love getting these, particularly via email so we don’t have to retype them.

Several of these, two of which are printed here today, are in response to what the writers decry as the negative commentary about the city that has appeared on this page of late.

I was not surprised by this and had been expecting such a response for some time.

As I counseled one of our editorial page contributors recently, a columnist or commentator needs to tread carefully around topics. When you continually browbeat someone with sarcasm – though it may be funny – eventually people are going to tire of it and all you end up accomplishing is generating public sympathy for the target of your ire.

A little sarcasm can be a good thing, but like anything else, it needs to be used in moderation.

A perfect example of this is Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911. I busted a gut laughing at Moore’s jokes at President Bush’s expense. But it was overdone and I remain convinced that in the long run it will play right into the president’s hands come election time. While funny, it’s also mean, and that’s no good – something my wife has been telling me for two decades with which I’m just now coming to grips.

Also, people take a certain amount of pride in their home. While Suffolk may have its faults, like any community, most of us are still proud of it and will only tolerate the slander for so long before we fight back. Which is one of the reasons I’m suspect of the recent survey of city residents conducted on behalf of city government. Most people, I think, would be reluctant to tell a stranger that they think the place they call home, where they are raising their children, is somehow a cesspool. Our natural instinct is to defend our home.

I’ve yet to review all of the papers we’ve published in my absence, but I intend to.

In the meantime,

I’d be interested in your thoughts on how our opinion page and its contributors are serving our city – whether we are raising issues that demand attention, or merely whining? It’s something we take seriously and while I’m reluctant to promise any drastic change, the feelings of our readership certainly demand serious consideration.

Anyway, as much as I enjoyed the sun and surf in South Carolina, it’s good to be back at work. I love Suffolk – it’s my home.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via email at