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Preserving a civil war of words

Posted: October 30, 2009 6:30 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
"He who is different from me does not impoverish me - he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves - in Man. ... For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass."

- Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Up until two weeks ago, I could rest safely in the fact that I was merely an objective reporter.

What happened on the opinion page was different than what happened on the front page.

That was before I was made opinion editor.

When it comes to this newspaper's stance, I've listened to both sides of the public argument.

"The Signal's opinion page is too conservative," some people say.

Others argue: "Your opinion section just keeps getting more and more liberal."

I'd like to think both of those statements are true.

In a world of 24-hour news cycles, Twitter feeds, blogs galore, nightly news talking heads and the continuing offensive between President Barack Obama's strategy machine and Rupert Murdoch's money-maker, The Signal's opinion section remains a free and open forum for the community.

Got something to say? Write a letter to the editor in 300 words or less, and I'll run it. Have more than that on your mind? Then let's talk about a column of 750 words or less.

It's no secret that, politically speaking, the Santa Clarita Valley is pretty conservative.

But there are liberals, moderates and libertarians here, too. Probably even a few communists.

This page is a place for everyone to say what they're thinking - and hopefully, to blow on the embers of thought to spark a flame of discourse.

Perhaps particularly because I've stepped into this new role after working as a reporter, my political leanings bring little to bear on how I edit this page.

Whether I believe McCain/Palin 2008 was the best combination since peanut butter and chocolate, or that we should legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, what matters when I edit the opinion page is grammar, length and making sure no one's name is unjustly dragged through the mud.

We don't print libel or attacks on businesses or individuals.

My opinions matter a lot when it comes to sitting on the editorial board, but they matter little in ensuring this is a place for you, the reader, to voice your beliefs.

If there is any real change I do hope to see effected during my tenure as opinion editor, it is increased civility.

By all means, get angry, get riled up and passionate and fire off a letter - whether it's about the latest health-care woes in Washington, D.C., or a recent decision by the Santa Clarita City Council.

Don't like what Gary Horton or Bill Kennedy wrote about last week? Stand up and be heard.

But please, be civil.

Everyone loses when we resort to cheap shots, pot shots, name-calling and simply parroting partisan ideology. When you preach to the choir, what is really accomplished?

I value the time and thought our columnists put into the pieces they produce.

Distilling your passion into 750 words can sometimes feel like an impossible task. So to our current columnists, I say: "Thank you, and keep it up."

In addition, there's always room for more voices.

I'd prefer to see fewer syndicated columns in this section, in favor of homegrown opinions.

So if you think you're up to it, let's talk about a regular or semi-regular column.

All I ask - in addition to proper use of semicolons - is that you take the high road of thought-provoking conviction over the easy path of partisan politics and regurgitated ideology.

Together, we can continue to wage a civil war of words in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Josh Premako is The Signal's opinion and business editor and a Newhall resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. He can be reached at jpremako@the-signal.com.

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