Occasionally, I will write something so outrageously offensive to some readers that they reach out to let me know they are canceling their subscriptions.
Ignore me, I say.
But please stick with the paper.
It happens more and more lately. It might be me; it might be the times. I write something, and a reader or two reaches out to let me know they can no longer bear my idiocy. They can no longer accept my lack of reason, my factual shortcomings, my blindness to obvious contradictions.
They can’t take it any longer. They’re done. Unsubscribe.
I say: Pretend I’m not even here.
But please stick with the paper.
Why in the world would I bring this up now? Oh, who can say? I’ve been thinking about Trump in these feverish final days before the election, about what a bigot and a bully he is, what a moral failure, what a disgraceful four years he has dumped upon this nation.
I’ve been thinking of his racism and his ignorance, his corruption and abuse of power, his crudeness and vile dishonesty. I’ve been thinking of his failure to even give a half-hearted effort at controlling a pandemic that has now taken the lives of about 240,000 Americans. I’ve been wondering when those who quietly support him – not true believers, but those who have made a cynical calculation that he’s good for them no matter how bad he is for the country – will turn their backs on him.
I’ve been thinking that the answer is never, which makes me mourn for the country.
I’m betting some readers will not like these thoughts. They might, I suppose, threaten to cancel their subscriptions.
What I will try to say to them, respectfully, is this: It’s very easy to never read me at all. Millions of people do it every day. I’d prefer, of course, that you read me and see the wisdom of my argument and agree with it, or be interested in the story I’m telling, or be provoked by some facts I’m presenting. In the alternative, I’d hope you recognize that one voice does not a newspaper make.
It’s not like I own the place.
I sometimes hate things in the newspaper myself, I might tell them. I had the wind knocked out of me Sunday morning, for example, when I saw the editorial-page endorsement of the incumbent president.
A newspaper endorsement favoring a man who assaults the truth hourly, and calls journalists the enemy of the people, is impossible to understand. An endorsement that lays out all the reasons to oppose the worst president in the history of the nation – and, by implication, the reasons to support his fundamentally decent, mainstream, boring, honest opponent – and then says go ahead and vote for the worst president in history anyway is an utter mind-twister.
It was also one voice – the publisher’s. There was a day when we had an editorial board that collectively made endorsements, though the publisher always held the tiebreaking vote; these days, though, it’s a solo operation. It’s his prerogative, but at this point, it’s his alone.
I realize the publisher’s one voice is not the same as my one voice, given that I am his employee. The comparison strains and breaks at some point. But you can ignore that endorsement, just as you can ignore my column, and still find plenty to value in The Spokesman-Review.
That is my hope, in any case. I have spent 20 proud years at this newspaper, and I can say with confidence there is much more to it than those few hundred words.
Many of you have wrestled with whether to stick with the paper. Many of you have concluded you can’t. Your disappointment is easy to understand, and each of you is making your best decision about what you can support with your dollars and what you cannot.
I get it. If you leave, we’ll miss you. We’d love to see you return. But you have to do what you think is right.
There’s a lot of good work in this newspaper, though, and I’m going to shill for it here. The journalism being done in these pages – coverage of the police and crime, the schools and the Capitol, the City Council and the County Commission and COVID-19 – is important to this community. It’s being done at a time when community newspapers are dying everywhere. And it is being done in complete separation from editorial-page opinions. (Even news columnists, like me, are distinct from the editorial page, and marked clearly as distinct from the straight news report, as well.)
Your support determines how much journalism we can do, and because of that, we’re doing better than many other papers. Our staff and our news reporting remain far more robust than many other papers in our circumstances.
I, for one, am grateful for that. And I hope readers who shared my dismay on Sunday morning will at least consider joining me in appreciating the forest, if not that one terrible tree.
Around this time four years ago, I wrote a column that attracted some “I quit!” responses. It was right before the election, and I was blithely, stupidly confident that Donald Trump could never become the president.
I wrote that he wouldn’t win “unless this is a worse country than I think it is.”
That is what Trump’s victory, and his four years, have meant to me, personally. A rebuke to my naivete about our essential national character. The subsequent four years of our country’s principles, norms and decency being trampled daily, all with the embarrassed support of the stock-market class and the beneficiaries of the tax-cut bribery, has felt to me like a form of grief.
I cannot imagine anyone, anywhere wishing for more of it.
But that’s just me. One voice.
You can ignore it and still find a ton of useful, important information in the newspaper. I hope that you will.