NEW CASTLE —
“Why did you run that letter?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years regarding various letters to the editor that appear in the New Castle News.
Typically, the people who ask the question are of one political persuasion, while the letter writer is coming from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum — usually the very extreme end.
My basic response is that we publish such letters because that’s part of what we do. Newspapers are supposed to provide outlets for expression, even if some people are unhappy with what they read.
I’ve always thought it takes some level of guts to read a newspaper. If you’re looking only for confirmation of what you like or believe, you’ve come to the wrong place. Read any newspaper long enough, and you will be offended.
Take me. I am offended by the fact the New Castle News publishes a daily horoscope. I think this is nonsense and an insult to rational thought. But there it is — because some people like it.
As for letters, these are the products of the people who write them. Anyone who reads this page can see the letters we publish cover a vast array of subjects and run the political gamut from far left to far right. Whether we agree with them or not is beside the point.
Allowing people to express their views is an important aspect of a free society. And letters to the editor play a big role when it comes to free speech. Anyone who supports free expression ought to respect the fact letter writers want to say something, even if that means not exactly respecting what they have to say.
I think it’s important to understand why freedom of expression in various forms is protected by the First Amendment. It’s not to be nice and it’s not to be tolerant of others. Rather, it’s out of recognition that no one person or entity holds a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas.
A free society advances and strengthens itself through open debate and discussion of ideas. The purpose is to test ideas to assess their merit. Theoretically, good ideas ultimately are embraced, while bad ideas are tossed by the wayside.
It’s not always a pretty or a smooth process, and sometimes mistakes are made. But it’s a system that allows a society to examine itself on an ongoing basis.
Does that mean any given letter to the editor has ideas or beliefs that others should adopt? Of course not. Some letter writers are flat-out wrong or flat-out silly.
But should we silence them if we come to that conclusion? I don’t think so.
Along with promoting the marketplace of ideas, free expression also creates the opportunity for fools to expose themselves. There’s real value in that concept as well.
NEW CASTLE —
“Why did you run that letter?”
Mitchel Olszak: Excuses for data sweep sound hollow
Perhaps 2013 will go down as the year privacy and civil liberties became too inconvenient for government. Listening to assorted officials defend massive programs that scoop up vast amounts of data certainly gives that impression.
John K. Manna: New ways needed to cover transportation improvements
Nobody can dispute the fact that bridges throughout the United States and Pennsylvania are on the verge of falling apart. Plus, roads continually need to be repaired or replaced.
Mitchel Olszak: Casino satire comes to fruition
Several years ago, I wrote a satirical column about government subsidizing casinos. In it, I envisioned a time in the future when casinos became so prevalent that the gambling market was glutted with them.
Culinary Conversation: Share your recipes with friends
The first weekend of summer kicked off with a wonderful visit from a very special friend and her husband who has become a great friend, too. I met Linda, who lives in Canada, more than three years ago on Facebook.
Mitchel Olszak: The challenge in life is to make certain that we live it
Many years ago, I worked as a reporter covering the police beat. The job involved a paper in a small town. And while much of this news consisted of burglaries, fights, drunk driving arrests, etc., I would get the occasional call for a fatality.
Mitchel Olszak: State records reveal water problems with gas well drilling
The drilling of shale gas in Lawrence County and the rest of Pennsylvania holds great promise. It also holds the potential for harm. Depending on who you ask, health and environmental concerns about shale gas drilling are either very real or very overblown.
John K. Manna: A look back a big wins, tiny turnout in primary
Years from now few people, if any, will remember Tuesday’s primary in Lawrence County. The few probably will not remember that only 9,291 registered voters turned out at the polls. It wasn’t the lowest turnout over the last 25 years or so.
Culinary Conversation: No sour grapes — just all things lemon
The makers of a lemonade mix have one intention for their consumers — add water and enjoy. Those fine people may be interested to know I found another use for the canister.
Lori Brothers: Body awareness can help manage stress
Are you an “inny” or an “outy”? I’m not referring to your belly button, even though the concept also applies there. I am talking about how you manage your stress. Do you internalize or externalize?
Mitchel Olszak: Snooping threat to the free press
In “All the President’s Men,” reporter Bob Woodward conducts late-night meetings with a source in a parking garage. That source, Deep Throat (later revealed to be high-ranking FBI official Mark Felt), was worried that he would be exposed as a tipster in the Watergate scandal.
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- Mitchel Olszak: Excuses for data sweep sound hollow