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Jeremy Boyer: Opinions are just one part of the news media menu

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Of all the content categories we offer our readers, nothing comes to close to the opinion section for the proportion of angry phone calls and correspondence I receive.

It's not unusual to hear from someone threatening to cancel a subscription, stop buying the paper at the newsstand or cease reading our digital products because of an editorial, cartoon, column or reader letter.

I had such a conversation just a few days ago with a person who was upset with what she feels has been an overabundance of editorial cartoons chastising the performance of President Donald Trump. She told me Trump has been doing a great job, and that these cartoonists are being mean and unfair. I explained that political cartoonists frequently target occupants of the White House because they're embroiled in some of the biggest controversies of the day, which has certainly been true of the current president.

She also said she was seriously considering canceling the paper because of these cartoons. My reply was that while we'll try to make sure we're not choosing exclusively Trump-themed cartoons, I'd encourage her to think carefully about what she'd be giving up if she stopped reading the paper.

In exchange for not being exposed to an opinion feature, she'd miss coverage of city of Auburn, Cayuga County, town and village governments; the state Legislature and governor; area public schools and colleges; new and existing businesses; local athletics; the comics page; health stories; community arts and cultural events and developments ... and probably a decent number of opinion pieces that reflected her own views.

Ultimately, she confided that she probably wasn't going to cancel (her husband wouldn't be happy about it, for one thing) and she thanked me for hearing her thoughts.

I offer this story for those out there who do get upset with something that's clearly labeled opinion, whether it's in ours or any other publication. Always try to remember that opinion is just one item on a much larger menu. If you don't like mushrooms, you probably wouldn't refuse to dine at a restaurant just because it offers a grilled portobello in addition to steaks and chops.

But that's not a perfect analogy for opinion pieces we don't like. While a mushroom hater (such as myself) would likely never be moved to order a big pile of them for dinner, a column or cartoon that opposes our own political and/or social beliefs can still have value.

Part of the problem with our badly broken public discourse these days is our tendency to surround ourselves with only views that reinforce our beliefs. Such an approach may feel good, but it prevents us gaining a level of understanding that can either lead to a compromise solution or give one side the insight needed to be able to persuade the other.

That's why I'm a proponent of newspaper opinion pages that try to get people to come out of their echo chambers and not be afraid of content that may make them want to cancel a subscription.

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer


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