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A free and diverse press is essential to our country

I'd like to address an issue that seems to be lost on a large segment of Americans, and, judging from some of the comments to my posts and others, to a few of the readers of this site.

I see many comments that call for the censure of columnists like me for expressing our opinions in opinion columns. I also see people castigating ColoradoBiz Magazine for allowing us to express our opinions in ColoradoBiz. Apparently, some of those who comment believe that ColoradoBiz should only publish articles and columns that express agreement with one political or social view.

The calls to shut down someone who disagrees with you and your political belief system is un-American. America is a Democratic Republic founded on free and open discourse from a variety of different viewpoints. Ideally, facts should be laid out by a free and fair press and a discussion (on the Op-Ed section and in the wider community) should lead to good government and greater freedom for all. I know that this is idealistic, but I'm just stating the ideal here.

Certain people who comment, however, want to shut down all opinions but those that comply with their own. Through name-calling, threats to cancel subscriptions and intimidation, these folks want to compel publications to only publish discourse which agrees with their viewpoint and politics.

This shows a severe misunderstanding of the way a free and fair press works in America. Blame Fox and MSNBC with their partisan tirades and slanted facts on, respectively, the Right and the Left. But some people have the belief that any publication, print or online, they read should toe their party line or wind up on the dustbin of publishing.

A free, fair and open press, while becoming less common these days, is, however, not a partisan rag. True to the great traditions of journalism, many publications, regardless of the political or social opinions of their editors or publishers, will publish a wide variety of articles and opinions. Those who wind up as partisan propaganda organs (if they do not bill themselves as such) are the ones who have betrayed journalism, not the publications which allow the free winds of open discourse to blow through their (web)pages.

The rules for publishing a news story are simple. Is it relevant? Is it news? Is it accurate? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but people are not entitled to their "own facts."

The rules for publishing an Op-Ed (Opinion) column are also pretty simple. Is it compelling? Is it interesting? Is it courteous? Is it relevant? Will people read it? There are also some no-no's, such as slandering someone, using profanity, hate speech, and the like.

There are generally rules for commenting, as well. The general rules include avoiding hate speech and profanity, staying on-topic, and so on. Disagreeing is fine and encouraged. Being nasty and generally disagreeable makes you look like a fool, and contributes nothing to discourse.

But let's be clear. The publication should NOT: censure, remove, refuse to publish, give disclaimers, or do anything else that interferes with the ability of columnists to express free and open opinions. This, of course, is the right of the publication to do so, if it wishes, such as Fox News and MSNBC do consistently. But those publications who allow a free and open flow of ideas are not villains, but heroes, of our country.

Some columns will express agreement with your opinion. Others will make your blood boil. Having opinions that are different from yours does not make the columnist a). evil or b). necessarily wrong. Unless you have had a verifiable divine revelation, you, too, (and I, as well) can be mistaken. And your opinion is both your right...and just YOUR opinion, not Absolute Truth.

Dictatorships and tyrannies have a press that can only express one narrow opinion. I believe that those who oppose the publishing of a wide range of opinions, even those that make their blood boil, are dangerous to our Democratic Republic...far more dangerous than external enemies. In America there should be an open flow of ideas, rather than one narrow political view. It is this which keeps our country truly free.

Ready for that new executive job? Join John and up to 40 of your executive colleagues on Monday, March 14, 2011, for Structured Networking. More info and required registration here.
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John Heckers

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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