A call for more substantive, local commentary

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Readers regularly ask why we don’t place a greater focus on issues of national political importance.

The answer is not necessarily a simple one, but it should be known the editorial board at St. George News made the choice to refrain from publishing articles on federal politics unless they are of immediate relevance to the residents of Southern Utah.

I am still committed to providing fair, accurate and in-depth reporting on Utah’s federal elected representatives, their response to national issues and any legislation in Congress that may affect The Beehive State. This is a suitable supplement to the comprehensive, local journalism St. George News seeks to provide. If there is a desire to learn more about national topics, it can be done by visiting media outlets that exclusively focus on them.

My time as editor in chief has been short but, to my mind, opinion content should also generally align with our commitment to stay local. That is why I am renewing the call for carefully composed letters to the editor.

Sorting through our submissions in recent weeks, many letters deal with the grievances of our national politics. Focusing on the federal government is understandable. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center, for instance, found that democrats and republicans have historically agreed on the problems facing the United States, primarily disagreeing over how to address them. But recent changes in political attitudes have led to differences even on the issues that ought to be addressed.

There is, however, some common ground. A separate survey from Pew Research found that 61% of Americans agreed local news reporters and journalists should not provide their opinion on community issues. That number is even higher for self-identifying republicans.

Several letters I have received since taking over the editor in chief position indicate that reading the opinion of other news consumers helps them interpret the issues and events in Southern Utah. A few suggested we return the comment section to the St. George News website to help with this. I found one concerned citizen’s commentary particularly insightful.

“We live in a rapidly changing community. Decisions are being made every day by local government officials that affect all of our residents’ lives,” he said. “We the people have been censored and I believe that with no voice there will be no accountability.”

Readers can always engage in the comment section on the St. George News Facebook page. Given a noticeable appetite for incisive commentary, however, patrons of our website should know they still have the ability to submit letters to the editor.

Thoughtful comments on local issues will provide St. George News’ readership with a broader range of opinions. Additional participation should also lead to a more accurate reflection of the thinking of Southern Utah and provide a lens through which to interpret our coverage.

Letters to the editor on the efforts of Utah’s federal elected representatives, specific pieces of legislation in Congress and matters dealing with a particular race for office will continue to be published and will be given priority over letters submitted on the character, appearance or secret impulses of a particular group or individual.

My recommendation, however, is that letters to the editor focus on the challenges facing Southern Utah and commit to an intelligent interpretation of publicly available facts. This is not intended to embrace censorship. I, for one, am a steadfast proponent of the unrestricted freedom of speech. Instead, it’s designed to promote higher quality discussion on issues important to the lives of our readers.

I will be looking forward to receiving your informed opinions on local topics and publishing them each week to enhance community understanding.

Just as you are counting on us to provide unbiased coverage – something I sincerely try to achieve every day – we are counting on you to provide substantive opinion our community leaders and elected representatives can use to make better decisions.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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