, Gloucester, MA

July 8, 2013

Letter: Column reaction shows potential for page changes

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

The responses to Rev. Slyman’s piece (Midweek Musings, the Times, Wednesday, July 3) sparked a well-deserved backlash against an isolated, intolerant viewpoint — one that is not representative in any way of this community.

While I was quick to dismiss his views based on my own values, this piece raised an important editorial question as to how the Times staff can be more responsible in presenting alternative viewpoints on social, political, and local development issues in its Opinion pages.

Although Rev. Slyman, in my opinion, expressed extreme, even bigoted views, I also believe the Times’ showed journalistic integrity in not silencing his voice and engaging in de facto censorship. That being said, the community deserves better from the Times editorial team.

I suggest the Times consider adopting a more constructive, issue discussion format, such as using a point-counterpoint, or “from the left-from the right” approach to present differing viewpoints on recognized contentious issues on a recurring basis. Reader letters should also be included within the format to create the on-going discussion. For example, the Times could run an issue discussion for 2-3 weeks, show a calendar of upcoming topics, and solicit content from recognized community thought leaders.

Over time, readers will come to accept the format as a constructive “community discussion forum” that would provide a range of views in a purposeful context.

Currently, an extreme “drive-by” rant in a Midweek Musing leaves the incorrect impression of one speaking on behalf of the community on a particular issue. That piece, along with subsequent response letters, create little impact, much like footprints in the sands of Good Harbor Beach — at once beautiful but quickly gone with no lasting impact.

By adopting a more purposeful Opinion page format, the Times can evolve from a repository of random musings to a more responsible custodian of balance community discussion of important topical issues.