By Dan Sponseller
For Rural Life Today
I grew up on a small century family farm in Richland County, which my father still farms and where I help every couple weeks. I live in Columbus, but will be moving back to the farm in a couple years to take over operations.
He gives me Rural Life Today for the latest farm news. He is, like a lot of Ohio farmers, fairly conservative and Republican or Independent in his views. I am more liberal so we don’t always see eye to eye on issues, and last year’s election brought to the surface many of those ideological differences.
One of the unfortunate repercussions is that we (as a country and as individuals) find ourselves divided from those we might not have had issues with before. Maybe this is part of the American Experiment of discovering what we believe as a people and where we’re going.
Of course we will never get everyone to agree on everything (nor should we), but there are ways to facilitate a conversation that lead to constructive solutions. And there are unfortunately some words and tones that work against that.
I was perturbed by some of the language in the editorial for the May issue of the paper, not because it was a different opinion, but because of the way it was presented. I am specifically referring to the editorial discussing how Sonny Perdue’s confirmation was reported by various media.
I can see the point being made (that the words media choose to cover a story are often biased), but this observation could have been made more briefly and with more of a neutral position. Instead it reinforced the “us against them” position that is so counterproductive to where we are as a people. The final paragraph pits “us” (the Ohio farmer? rural newspaper editors?) against “some in the media” who “still can’t get over their loss” and “we in rural America” against…who? those who didn’t vote for Trump?
To frame the issue in these terms makes a lot of assumptions about the reader, provoking a reaction that you are either “with” the editor or “against” him. And if you’re against him, then you must be against a majority of people reading the paper, notably Ohio farmers.
The AP article in question appears later in the paper and gives plenty of reasons to mistrust Trump when it comes to agriculture issues, as well as providing some evidence that he might come through for farmers. It’s a crap shoot with Trump, as is everything with him, because of his inconsistency, impulsiveness, and unpredictability. I personally don’t believe he is trustworthy.
My point is, the editor of a newspaper is entitled to his or her opinion, as is everyone. But he or she also has more of a responsibility to readers, who may or may not agree with his or her opinion, to present a position that is more neutral and unbiased. It is possible that the majority of readers will agree with the position of the editorial.
But those who do not agree with it (future farmers who may be more liberal) may feel alienated and not continue a subscription to one more biased news source. There are more productive ways to have this conversation. Let us not add fuel to the fire in this country, but instead seek ways to find common ground to strengthen our connections and our democracy in order to foster “a more perfect Union.”
Thanks for listening.