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Column: Have opinions about the news? Voice them on our editorial board
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

This past week, The Times got some mail accusing us of turning into “such a liberal rag.” I’m hanging that note up in my office next to the one accusing us of being a “Republican rag.”

Yes, we know this region is largely conservative, with 70% of Hall County voting in 2020 for Donald Trump to be president. Yes, we get mail — and have for years — from all sides perceiving an old or new bent toward one side or the other of the political spectrum. That said, we also know that the vast majority, 57%, of subscribers who responded to our surveys last year place us in the moderate category. Just 2% of the more than 600 who responded placed The Times’ political ideology at “very liberal” and 2.6% placed it at “very conservative.” That leaves another 21% placing us at conservative and 16% at liberal.

No matter what you believe about us or politics, what we do believe is that a diversity of opinions is important for our opinion pages and our democracy.

I should also point out, these opinions are entirely separate from our news reporting team. We put opinions and columns under sections on our website for opinions and columnists, but just to be extra clear, we also put “Opinion:” or “Column:” in the headline of each piece. 

Our current lineup of regular opinion columnists in our print edition and E-Paper include a couple of men who write about statewide issues, Dick Yarbrough and Tom Baxter. Yarbrough is syndicated in many papers in Georgia, and ours has published him for many years. Baxter is newer to our pages but not to observing politics in Georgia.

In the weekend edition, we regularly run national columnist Jonah Goldberg, who spent many years at the conservative “National Review.” We also select another column or two from a stable of nationally syndicated columnists including Star Parker, Ruben Navarrette and John Stossel. Who we run depends on the space we have, the topics they choose to write about and the strength of their arguments. 

Each week I read their columns and learn something new. Sometimes I agree with them, and sometimes I don’t, neither of which has anything to do with which opinions get published.

And, of course, there’s this column, too, in which I share my opinions on topics of personal interest. 

Our opinion content also includes letters to the editors from you all. We get quite a diversity of opinions sometimes, and I really enjoy having opposing opinions on an issue in the same edition when we can make that happen.

We also publish national and state political cartoons, and again, we try to include opposing viewpoints.

Our goal with opinion content always is to give voice to varying opinions, especially when the arguments are well made. Reading an opinion with which you might disagree is good for sharpening your own mind, whether that opinion swayed you toward or away from the opinion you held before hearing from another side.

Hearing from other sides is an important part of our editorial process. And each weekend, we also publish what is known as an “institutional” editorial, representing the opinion of the newspaper and its leadership.

For the past couple of years, we’ve operated that editorial board with community members offering their opinions. Their names are listed each week in a box with the published editorial online. These board members review editorials before they publish and offer their thoughts on local, state and sometimes national issues. Often, there’s agreement on the opinion published; sometimes there’s a bit of disagreement on small points. Every once in a while there’s significant disagreement and you may see a note about that with the editorial. In any case, we’ve valued their input and their support of their local newspaper. Now, we’re looking for fresh voices to join the conversation.

So, subscribers, if you’d like to share your opinions and have some input on those shared in the newspaper, now is your chance.

Board members will serve a 12-month term and, at least for now, meet virtually on a semi-regular basis to discuss community issues. That discussion will inform the weekly editorials. Board members will be asked to review editorials once a week via email before they are published.

Those interested should send about 200 words describing their opinion about the newspaper’s role in the community to letters@gainesvilletimes.com. Please also include the following:

  • Name
  • Political leaning
  • Community involvement and/or issues important to you
  • Any other details you think would help inform our selection.

A select number of members will be chosen in order to create a board of manageable size but with diverse, thoughtful opinions. 

As always, opinions from our readers are also welcome as letters to the editor. Letter writers may be published once every 30 days, and those opinions are limited to 500 words. And, of course, reach out to me any time with your thoughts about what appears in the pages of The Times.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident. 

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