PS: Please Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Asheville – I received an email from a former reader the other day. I say former as he was canceling his subscription to the paper because of somethings he read. Let me start by saying I hope that our readers read our paper for what they expect they won’t find in other newspapers in and around the area. If our paper were like the rest in the area, then one of us would be redundant.

Nowhere else will you find coverage of local town meetings in Weaverville and Woodfin, unique sports articles about local teams and players, new businesses, and people. We’re happy to provide that in our paper. We work hard to present mainly local and sometimes state content and not just fillers.

Anyway, this reader asked me not to print his letter, and I will, of course, honor his wishes and not publish the letter. However, I will take to task the reason he canceled his subscription as it wasn’t over how we covered a story, but the publishing of opinion pieces.

See, as the editor, I work hard to keep opinions out of news articles. I work to see if something written in a piece is an opinion. If so, is it attributed to someone we’ve named in the story, or does it sound like the reporter is trying to analyze and offer their own opinion or advocate for one side or the other? If so, I edit it out.

We do allow space for opinions and commentaries along with letters to the editor. These are the places for opinions, not articles and news stories. I try and limit those opinion pieces to what I call my page, which is usually page 3 and labeled “Introductions,” or a page near the end of the paper, which is called “Opinion.” Wherever you find the opinion piece, it will be labeled as such or “Introductions.”

I’ll be honest, my commentaries, not editorials (as editorials are the paper’s position, which we haven’t done in years), are usually about what I want to talk about. It could be a local issue, a personal issue, a national issue. It can vary, but it’s my opinion.

The opinions that got our former reader all upset was one from the publisher, David Morgan, and myself. Morgan’s and my opinion had offered alternatives to the mainstream media’s about the COVID-19 virus. Both cited data and studies to back-up our positions, but that was might have been too much for the former reader.

Let me give you an example. Open any newspaper and you’re going to get the standard line about wearing masks and there is plenty of data and studies out there to support the position.

However, that’s not the complete story. An October 30th article in the Vermont Independent newspaper reported on a study looking into the problems people encounter wearing masks, including: “headaches, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, difficulty communicating, physical discomfort,  mental/emotional discomfort, and difficulty cleaning your hands every time you touch your mask.”

That last one is a big problem. You see people wearing masks are all the time touching their masks. If you’re not going to keep your hands off the mask, whatever’s on your hands ends up on the covering, including COVID-19.

Keep in mind that physical and mental consequences are not the only result of wearing masks, but there are also issues to not wearing a mask. “The survey also uncovered evidence of a stigma [in not wearing a mask].” People who believe in the power of the mask are mask-shamingv those who don’t use them. Usually, these mask-shamers never trying to find out if there is a medical reason for those who don’t. They just assumed that they are anti-mask.

What to do? Well, that’s a real question we all are thinking about, even as I sit here with a cousin in the ICU with COVID and COVID related-pneumonia.

It’s our job to tell both sides of the issues and since most of the other media seem to be beating everyone over the head with wearing masks, we want the other side to be heard. If you have an opinion, certainly send it to us in the form of a letter to the editor or as a guest commentary. We’d love to share it, so reach out by emailing it to editor@tribpapers.com.

I want everyone to get as much information and, make the decision that’s right for them and respect the decision that others have made for themself. And remember if you are going to wear a mask – keep your hands off of it or you might just be giving yourself COVID from your hands.

Please don’t shoot the messenger.

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