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Share your opinions, Dec. 16, 2005

I like to use this little forum from time to time to address issues we deal with at the paper. As a quasi-public utility, which is how I once heard a wise gentleman talk about community newspapers like the News-Herald, I think we have a certain responsibility to our readership to be as open about things as we can.

We recently began publishing a column on Tuesdays called &uot;The New View.&uot; It is being written by a cabal of downtown business and professional folks who, for the most part, are new to our city. It was the brainchild of Dave Arnold, an attorney with the firm of Pender & Coward, which just opened up shop in the old Gurley Press building at West Washington and Saratoga.

The reason behind it, Arnold told me, was to counter what was perceived by the group to be an overwhelmingly negative view of Suffolk city government on the part of regular News-Herald columnists, me among them, I suppose.

I had of course heard this from others and it has long been somewhat of a concern for me. Not so much that our writers are critical of something, but I just wanted to be satisfied in my own mind that we’re being fair. After all, newspaper columnists are, basically, critics and a critique, by its very nature, is negative. So &uot;negativity&uot; is sort of the nature of the beast. Someone complaining that a newspaper’s op-ed page is &uot;negative,&uot; is akin to complaining that the ice cream you just ate was too cold. That’s just the way it comes.

Arnold’s contention was that there are lots of good things happening in Suffolk that our local government officials are responsible for – a view I share – and that those &uot;positive&uot; things deserve a platform.

While I respect his opinion, I don’t’ really buy the argument that the positive things happening in our city – and they are many – do not have a platform. Our city has a large, sophisticated apparatus in place entirely dedicated to seeing to it that that positive message gets out. It has two cable TV stations, hosts frequent public educational meetings about various issues, utilizes direct mail, telemarketing and has a large Web presence that is about to be expanded, as I understand it. The city of Suffolk is, in effect, a competitor of sorts with the News-Herald when it comes to the dissemination of information. In short, the positive things that are happening in Suffolk are not happening behind the scenes. They get plenty of hype.

A community newspaper’s editorial page’s role is to provide a forum for those with different ideas, those that don’t have their own newspaper, TV channels, or public relations and marketing experts at their disposal to get their message out. It is open to anyone in Suffolk interested in contributing.

Arnold is such a person. And while more than a few people have complained to me that he is merely spouting the party line from City Hall, that’s OK with me. He lives in Suffolk, has an opinion, is willing to write it down and convinced me he is not a deranged crackpot like someone from some radical fringe group like the Brotherhood of Aryan Nations, the North American Man-Boy Love Association or the Democratic Party.

If you have different view of things than Arnold, me, or anyone else who writes regularly in the News-Herald, you have an open invitation at the paper to get your views published. I, and many others in Suffolk, would love to read them.