Kyle Troutman: No strings attached

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

In the past two weeks, I have received two pieces of correspondence that gives credence to the claim that people these days interested in news are prone to seeking out the kind of news that fits their worldview.

There has been a fair amount of talk in this space about letters to the editor recently, and when I returned to the office after the couple weeks of winter weather, I had one waiting on me at my desk.

The first thing I noticed about the letter was there was no return address. About 99 percent of the time, that means the letter is anonymous and is a grievance or a conspiracy theory. This one was an anonymous grievance.

The writer lamented about my column that ran in the Feb. 6 issue. Some of the letter included questions and statements like:

• Why not have a white history month to celebrate the accomplishments of white people?

• Did you know that black people have a cable TV channel solely dedicated to black TV shows (BET)?

• Objective thinking will show that working hard, getting an education and staying out of trouble goes a long way toward a happy life, no matter what your race.

• These views are held by many in this area. They are not racist but objective in thought.

The letter concluded with, “For my safety, I remain anonymous.”

Very quickly, white history month doesn’t exist because the vast majority of history taught in schools — focused on Europeans and colonials — is white history; BET is marketed to black people, yes, but it’s not exclusionary — I’ve watched it plenty before, and white people are on it all the time; and yes, working hard and getting educated helps, but a racist person intent on holding black people down will do that no matter how hard-working, educated and law-abiding a black person is.

What really gets me is that last line. What part of this writer’s safety is at stake by writing this letter that give an apparently popular opinion in this area? Is the person afraid someone might become violent over the opinion? Could the person be fired for having this opinion published?

If you are not willing to put your name to an opinion, it’s usually a bad opinion. I put my name and face on this page every week, and I do so knowing my opinions will not always be with the majority in this area, which brings me to the next correspondence.

In Cassville on Monday morning, a man came in and canceled his subscription and presented me with a printed letter he had written detailing why. I am withholding this man’s name because I did not ask his permission to use it, and I think his letter was meant more for me personally than for print.

I will give the man credit, as he did sign his letter, and he delivered it to me personally and looked me in the eye when he handed it over.

The gentleman took issue with multiple columns of mine, including the same Feb. 6 piece, as well as my Jan. 13 piece after the riot in Washington, D.C., a Kansas City Star editorial I published on this page (we routinely publish other newspapers editorials concerning many topics of all kind of political persuasions), and the Bob Mitchell column that ran in the Cassville Democrat on Feb. 17 admonishing U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley for issues surrounding the events in D.C. on Jan. 6.

The letter in its entirety ran about 1,000 words and had too many points to address in this space.

The one I would like to point out is how the reader accused me of being beholden to my “puppeteers” for running the Star’s editorial. The truth is, on that day, it was the most interesting, thought-provoking piece I had available to me to run, so I ran it. Did I personally think Hawley would lose his law license for what happened on Jan. 6? Not for a millisecond. Did I find it interesting that 60 attorneys had signed a complaint asking the Missouri Supreme Court to investigate his actions? You bet. Might it also be noted that the Star’s piece also ran directly under a political cartoon I also did not personally agree with.

The kicker with the “puppeteer” comment came a few paragraphs later, when the writer said the paper had “failed its patrons by not presenting the facts or is guilty of influencing their political thinking.” He then asked if I really “know and understand” my clientele.

At no time have we printed fictitious information and presented it as fact. Opinion and fact are separate, which is why editorials are on the opinion page and not scattered in the paper. As far as influencing political thinking and knowing my clientele, that is partially the purpose of the opinion section, and yes, I am very aware of my clientele.

In one breath, the gentleman accused me of being puppeteered, but in the next, wants to pull my imaginary strings.

Newspapers are one of the last places where many political views can be presented together, side by side, at the same time. If all I did was pump right-slanted opinions to our largely Republican readers, what is the point in that? We are not here to pat one another’s backs. We are here to provoke thought, to challenge the norm, to offer differences in opinion so we aren’t continually blinded by whichever side of the aisle we trend toward.

Those who want opinions they agree with can surely find them. As editor, I take pride in doing my best to keep the opinion page diverse, and I will continue to strive to do so — no stings attached.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.

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