The American Thinker published an op-ed on July 7 titled “Be afraid: Leftism is infecting even small-town newspapers.” It points out the bias in many smaller media outlets against Republican candidates and conservative or independent political thought while offering hope that increased responsibility might lead to a more open and vibrant discussion of local issues.
Renee Parsons wrote the piece to critique the editorial decisions of her local newspaper, the Durango Herald of Durango, Colorado. Parson specifically focused on an editorial published by the paper on April 30 titled “Our View: Threat of authoritarianism is real.”
The editorial favorably quotes a national journalist in the vital passage challenged by Parsons:
It is this “new right” in many countries, including the United States, that wants to “overthrow, bypass, or undermine existing institutions, to destroy what exists to promote chaos, as a prelude to imposing a new kind of order.” (A goal eerily similar to those of some January 6 insurrectionists.) In that new order, “Polarization is normal as are attacks on the rule of law, on the press, on academia, and on mythical elites.”
Parsons challenges the paper’s policies regarding publishing letters to the editor from the public and its overall dedication to the principles laid out in the First Amendment that glorify the value of free and open debate.
It is undoubtedly true that when local newspapers fail to adequately represent the full spectrum of political views of their readership, the overall level of engagement in local government and issues of public interest suffers.
Parsons does point out that her local community is moving forward with a more independent electorate that will demand a more balanced journalistic approach. She observes that a “massive public awakening is occurring” and that registered independent voters now outnumber voters registered either as Democrats or Republicans.
Local newspapers are frequently the only source of critical news or editorial content in small communities. When editors systematically weed out letters and reader input that runs counter to their paper’s editorial biases, open discussion and debate may become not only difficult but virtually impossible.
While there are limited legal remedies for a public that lives in a community without a free and open press outlet, citizens can make changes through the wonders of competition. While opening up a rival paper is probably cost-prohibitive, the power of technology can provide options for local forums that can make narrow-minded newspapers less dominant in setting the agenda.