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The Snoop

The Douglas County Herald is frequently the recipient of anonymous letters.  These letters may express a grievance against a public official, an annoying neighbor problem, an opinion about a county or city action, or a complaint against a school administrator or teacher –– letters tackle a host of topics.  

Most generally, the anonymous write-ups are interesting, sometimes accurate, and oft-times humorous.  

As a newspaper, we welcome the input and take comments seriously.  But because the letters are unsigned and the illuminating tidbits therein unverified, our policy is not to print unsigned letters.  However, we do investigate the validity, and when appropriate, search for the possibility of a hidden news story.    

For those items appearing in the Douglas County Herald, if the writer is pleased with a column, they normally sign their name –– which is nice.  But when a reader is agitated about something we’ve published, the letter most generally becomes anonymous.  

That is what we received last week …. an anonymous letter-writer who was upset about columns appearing in our newspaper. The point of concern referenced Congressman Jason Smith of the 8th Congressional District, and four of his recent columns.  The columns were clipped from our newspaper and included with the letter.  

The anonymous letter reads as follows: 

Being an independent voter, I find these articles somewhat offensive.  This person is out of control.  I cannot understand why your paper would publish such a one-sided view.  

Smith is on the verge of being radical. 

I’m happy to say the Ozark County Times seem to stay away from uncontrollable one-sided commits.

 J.T. 65608

Independent split-ticket voter   

J.T. 65608 is entitled to express this opinion.  

But Cong. Jason Smith is also entitled to express opinions in his weekly columns.  

As a news provider, we choose to print Smith’s columns whether or not his words are deemed ‘acceptable’.  Smith’s viewpoints are beneficial to understand –– just as it is important for voters to have insight into the viewpoints of Senator Mike Cunningham and State Representative Karla Eslinger.   We print those reports, too. 

Officials are elected to represent our best interests and these columns provide insight as their actions and intentions. That is why the Herald publishes them.  

And, based on feedback from other readers, the weekly reports are read and appreciated.   

It can easily be said politics is oft-times annoying.  All of us have heard ugly political statements bantered about in the news, claims that may or may not be factual.  

As voters we choose whether or not to agree, but in our nation, free speech reigns.  Citizens, as well as politicians, have the right to engage in expression, and this applies to readers of our newspaper as well.

There is a Latin phrase attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, “scientia potentia est” when translated means knowledge is power.  Bacon, an English philosopher and statesman, served as attorney general and Lord Chancellor of England in the early 1600s.  His words still ring true.

Throughout our 134 years publication, opinion pieces have always appeared in our newspaper.  Whether focusing on today or yesteryears, the political or controversial write-ups have presented a range of opinions, covering a vast number of topics.  A fact the archives prove to be true. 

If you’ve had an opportunity to read political columns and editorial comments from the 1880s to early 1900s, you understand what a delightfully enlightening experience it is –– because back then “political correctness” did  not exist.  Opinion pieces were not tempered –– not one little bit.   

Today, our editorial staff has discretion to print or not print.  But our ultimate decision is based upon standards, as the evaluation process includes not only freedom of speech, but other guidelines as well.  We avoid publishing personal vendettas, such as ‘dirty laundry’ issues, petty grievances, disputes, neighborhood battles, individual accusations, controversies,  affairs, divorces or unsettled lawsuits. Defamatory allegations are generally not allowed; however, in today’s society, the political forum has no boundary lines or proprietary standings –– much like days gone by.

Yes, the Herald publishes the columns generated by our state representatives –– Smith included.  And yes, his columns throughout the past few weeks, have been hard-hitting about affairs in Washington D.C.  But this is nothing new.

Over the years, the Herald has printed opinion pieces from former Senator Claire McCaskill, former Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, former Governor Eric Greitens, and other elected officials. And we do it for our readership, as we deem the columns an important part in the voter decision making process.

J.T. 65608, please know the Herald genuinely appreciates your comments.  However, we will continue to print Cong. Smith’s column, and   I am genuinely sorry you found his past reports “somewhat offensive.”  That is not our intent.  

Nonetheless, by publishing these columns, the Herald is striving to help you and other voters assess the mindset and political viewpoints of candidates, so when it’s time to cast your ballot, you have the ammunition to make a well-informed decision.

Again, we appreciate your comments, and many thanks for reading the Douglas County Herald.