Included in this issue, you will see a Letter to the Editor from Michael Stevens, regarding his perception, undoubtedly shared by others, that too many articles, editorials and cartoons demonstrate a negative tone, particularly in respect to our First Selectman. While initially a private email sent to The Observer simply to share his concerns, we believed the concerns, should be shared, and we obtained his approval to publish the note, with the hopes that the community can help with a solution.
When the email was received, I responded directly to Mr. Stevens, thanking him for his input and noting that his concerns about a lack of “balance” is something we take seriously and had already been the subject of discussions. As Chairman, and I am sure many of our regular volunteers, share Mr. Steven’s view that our Selectman is trying to do what is best for the town, even when disagreeing on an issue. But our beliefs are not important. Our mission, published in the paper every month, is to build a sense of community throughout the town of Suffield and to provide a forum where all sides of an issue may be addressed. These twin, and somewhat contradictory goals, are often difficult to achieve simultaneously, especially in the face of controversial issues.
Our “First Selectman’s Update” provides a unique opportunity for our Selectman, whoever it is, to speak directly to our readers with virtually no editorial oversight. However, this is clearly not always sufficient, particularly when there are multiple critical articles in an issue, and that leads to an understandable perception that the paper is trying to “pile on”. But numerical “balance” on hot topics is not often easy to achieve, given our reliance on voluntary submissions from townspeople, many of whom may not be regular contributors to the paper. Such submissions will generally find their way into the paper since we have never believed it was appropriate to not publish an otherwise appropriate, timely submission on a public issue solely to achieve numerical “balance”. We have in the past, and, when possible, will continue to solicit an article with a contrary viewpoint, an approach that sometimes was successful, but often times is impossible since submissions often arrive too close to deadline to obtain a “response.”
Searching for possible solutions we tried, but could not, recall a single instance when an article was rejected because it reflected a view contrary to what was being espoused by other submissions, whether regarding the Selectman or some controversial issue. Yet we know that they are out there. Common sense, voting results and anecdotal evidence make it obvious that there are townspeople on both sides of virtually every issue we deal with. The solution to the “balance” issue is for those individuals to submit articles, editorials, or Letters to the Editor expressing that view on an issue, so that all sides of an issue can be addressed. We are a community newspaper and everyone in our community is encouraged to do so (and to well before our deadline of the 15th of every month whenever possible). Details on how to do so, and necessary limitations, can be found at: https://thesuffieldobserver.com/submissions .
Jay Presser, Chairman