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Posted: February 24, 2011

A free and diverse press is essential to our country

As always, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone

John Heckers

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, 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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Readers Respond

As usual John evades and avoids the point. I doubt that he is capable of following the point that he praised about leaders who should be able to take criticism and admit mistakes. By John Wray on 2011 02 25
Kimberly --- sarcasm, like beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. I do not believe I am writing nor intend to write sarcastically. My advice is direct and clear, based on my 30 years of experience in helping others with their careers. Most people (as evidenced by my overflowing email in-box and my rankings almost every week in the top 5 stories) appreciate my style. A few are offended. Frankly, I'd prefer to offend a few people than to be bland. I am a colorful writer. While I appreciate your input, my earthy and direct style is not likely to change this lifetime. Of course you always have the option (which I hope you don't take) of not reading my column. If you would know me, you'd know that I am much the same in person...and this is why I am sought after when executives need advice or are in trouble. I'm always happy to have a cup of coffee with my readers so they can get to know me better, too. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 02 25
OK, boys and girls. Time to go back to English Composition 101 and look at some no-no’s in commenting. 1). Ad hominem attacks. This means “to the person” attacks. Rather than discussing someone’s opinion, the person’s belief system, politics, appearance, gender, etc. is attacked. 2). Straw man attacks. The poster over-simplifies the columnist’s (or poster's) opinion and attacks the over-simplification. 3). “Bolverism.” This term was coined by the famous Anglican writer C.S. Lewis. It means discounting the opinion of another because of gender, politics, race, religion, etc. “You just say that because you’re a woman” is an example of this ignorant form of attack. But everyone can play that game. 4). Labeling. I’m always amused when the right wing demonizes me as a socialist or a “leftie,” at the same time as the left wing is foaming at the mouth and calling me a “heartless conservative.” If I’m a giant to the Lilliputians and too short for Goliath, maybe it means I’m about average height. I like some Liberal and some Conservative opinions. I, myself, do not identify myself with either. 5). Dismissive remarks. In today’s political climate just CALLING someone “a Liberal,” or, derisively a “Lib,” seems to be enough for the person’s opinion to be completely dismissed as invalid. It is not necessarily. No one has a corner on Absolute Truth. I, again, call for a rational, civil, and polite discourse where all viewpoints and voices can be heard without “yelling” or demonizing anyone. While it is certainly your First Amendment right to insult others and use invalid attacks, it only makes the one who does this look ignorant. Courteous and civil discourse, on the other hand, expands community and actually generates light as opposed to just heat. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 02 25
John, Your comments are valid - we all have a right to our opinions. Please consider that you are a role model - an established voice in the community. Therefore you also have a responsibility - to lead by example. If you don't want antagonistic comments, then don't antagonize with your words. There are many ways to get a message across to your readers. You are a direct communicator - which is admirable. As a role model, however, if you want to elicit change in the way that leaders lead and executives perform, then perhaps you can encourage change by writing with sincerity rather than sarcasm. By Kimberly on 2011 02 25
I honestly didn't get past your "statement" that I don't "get" it. Your arrogance exposed itself in the first sentence. Sorry, but you are WRONG but radicals rarely can see it by definition. I know SO much more about freedom of speech than you do that it's amazing. I hope you get paid for your "articles." If not, then I wonder why you write so many. For the most part they are far left liberal and typical of today's media. I love Cobiz and simply ignore your articles as I suspect that most do, but in any case, it doesn't matter. Opinions that aren't based on fact are worthless and I can't find any basis for your "opinions." The media of today has pretty much lost ALL respect from the general public and you know that if you pay attention to any polls on the subject. Imho, you are the perfect example why that has happened. I don't need pure opinions based on nothing and I suspect few others do. I'd like something that educates me. I am a HUGE reader and I DO base my opinion of you on many many articles. I read at least 1/2 dozen every day from many many sources. I'd suggest that you re read your posts and TRY to do it objectively and perhaps, just perhaps, you'll see just how opinionated you really are By John Wray on 2011 02 25
Mr. Wray. One thing that I think you clearly do not "get"is the difference between OPINION columns and news. I would have no problem with Fox or MSNBC if they were clearly stating that their content is editorial in nature, not "fair and balanced" news. The OPINION columns of a publication, such as the ones you consistently comment on with varying degrees of name-calling and insults, on this publication, are for OPINION. CoBizMag and several other publications publish a wide variety of OPINIONS that do not reflect the policies of the publication. Nor does publishing an OPINION with which the publishers may agree or disagree have anything to do with the credibility of the publication except, perhaps, raise it for presenting diverse and balanced views. Now, many partisans, such as yourself, obviously want to intimidate the publication into ceasing publication of OPINIONS by columnists that disagree with your highly partisan OPINIONS. Now, no-one would have any problem with you if you or other extreme partisans if you politely, rationally and civilly expressed disagreement with a writer. I've noticed in your comments, however, that you call names, demonize the columnist and all posters who do not buy your extreme partisan position, and otherwise break virtually all rules of civil discourse. I would encourage you to express your opinion, no matter how partisan, ot how much you disagree with me, other columnists or other posters, but to re-think the delivery of that opinion and refrain from insulting others who might disagree with you. My opinions are mine, and your opinions are yours. You (and your fellow partisans) do not have a corner on absolute Truth anymore than I do (or anyone else does, for that matter). By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 02 25
of course, & in fact I already have fought to defend that right By John Wray on 2011 02 24
I may not agree with what you say (although in this case I do), but I will defend to the death your right to say it. By Susan Conder on 2011 02 24
rick, I guess that you didn't realise that you were ageeing with me when you posted that the media has changed dramatically in the last ten years. I reiterate that all polls show that the public does not trust what they get from the media (in all forms). The media has to step up and do the work necessary to regain public trust. Cobiz has done better than most, but I'm not sure why some writers seem to be able to post the same manipulative articles over and over again. Most of the writers seem to be quite responsible, so I regularly read the mag. I simply feel that it is my duty as a citizen to confront people like John H.. THAT'S FREE SPEECH FOLKS and what it's all about. By John Wray on 2011 02 24
Perhaps one of the most typical manipulations that I have read in a while. I won't try to speak for others, and I have had three tours in Vietnam defending everyone's right to speak. The only problem that I have with this mag and our media in general is that it lends a certain amount of credibility to a published article. ALL polls show that the general public has lost a huge amount of confidence in the accuracy of the media because historically we have tended to trust that what we read is accurate, factual and written by someone who has a sufficient amount of credentials. With a couple of the writers in recent history of this mag, the writers have NOT had the above. One in particular was touted as being the president of a fake organization and was a total scam. It was a mistake for this mag to publish such a writer without disclaimers that identified his "organization" as a self made "company" with NO members etc etc. I like Cobiz in general whether I agree with the writers or not, but publishing articles from completely phony writers is beneath them or any reputable media forum. Nice try to evade the point. NOT restriction of freedom of speech but poor journalism standards.Your "criticism" was one sided and manipulative by using the same old distractions from the real point of your readers criticism By John Wray on 2011 02 24
John... I agree with your comments. Ranting occurs at a regular pace on most political websites and seemingly here by a few people. Varying opinions discussed in a civil format are healthly for us and our community. This country has been deeply polorized by a media that has changed dramatically over the last ten or so years. There are so many things on scale with "Watergate" that go untouched by MSM that it creates intensity in a forum such as this. One that did not exist ten years ago. We all have the option to change the channel or unsubscribe. By Rick on 2011 02 24

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