Where are our conservative columns?

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Recently we did a readership survey via SurveyMonkey online as well as in the newspaper itself. The results showed that the majority of the people who responded like the Four Corners Free Press and want us to continue doing more of what we’re doing.

Here are a few of the (unedited) comments we got in response to a question asking when and why people picked up the paper (no, we’re not making any of them up, but yes, we’re picking the most positive ones here):

  • Monthly. I think this is the best source for local news in the Four Corners region.
  • It’s less fake than the other “fake news” newspaper in Cortez.
  • We subscribe to Free Press because the reporting is fair and balanced and well done. Plus there’s lots of local information.
  • The first day it hits the stands. Best indie rag around!
  • Delivered to my home. Great independant news for the Utah/Colorado area on topics that concern me.
  • For in-depth coverage of local political and environmental issues.
  • I’ve subscribed since the first year because the local paper wasn’t giving me the type of information I wanted. That’s still the case!
  • Pick it up as soon as it comes out – because of the feature stories – short news – calendar and events, community info
  • Because its a great read.

But when we asked readers what they would like to see more or less of in these pages, several answered that they wished there were more conservative commentary in the opinion section.

“I think your Opinion page is irrationally left wing,” wrote one respondent. “I could post a reply to anything Heidelberg, Miesler, Larson write. And the letters! Trump Derangement Syndrome runs rampant. Dexter Gill seems to be the only writer that uses facts. I am not renewing my subscription because of this irritable leftwing persuasion. I do like the in-depth writing of the local and area news and the crime report is a hoot!”

“More conservative commentary,” said another. “Like it or not we do exist out there.”

“less liberal,” said a third.

We conducted the survey in order to learn what readers want and we take all the responses seriously. So we’d like to address the indisputable fact that we have only one regular columnist, Dexter Gill, who could be considered conservative, and by his own choice he writes specifically about issues related to public lands and natural-resource management.

The reason there aren’t other conservative columns, or letters, is simply because nobody sends us any. When we started the Four Corners Free Press more than 15 years ago, we actively reached out to a half-dozen local conservative leaders to see if any of them would write for us. All said no.

Since then, we have published rightward-leaning columns as they have come to us, including three a few months ago by Cortez’s Bud Garner. And many years ago we had one regular columnist who wrote in favor of gun rights and hunting. So it isn’t as though we’re sitting on a stack of such material and refusing to publish it. In fact, we generally publish all columns and/or letters to the editor that we receive. About the only times we don’t is when we run out of space, when the letters have already been published elsewhere and are “stale” when we get them, or when the pieces come from writers out of the area who send them out nationwide to a thousand newspapers.

We want the Four Corners Free Press to have a local and regional focus, so we aren’t going to start reprinting nationally syndicated columns by people such as George Will. And hardly anyone who works or writes for our newspaper holds conservative views, for whatever reason, so we aren’t going to be writing right-wing opinion pieces. Most of us believe Donald Trump is a god-awful president, to be frank, and it wouldn’t be any easier for us to pretend otherwise than it would be for you folks on the right to embrace Hillary Clinton.

We understand that people like to see points of view that resemble their own and reflect their values – everyone does. But if you want more conservative material in the Free Press, someone is going to have to write it and send it to us, there’s just no way around that.

There isn’t space here to go into the other feedback we received, but we’ll try to share more of it in the future – and to be responsive to all our readers’ interests and concerns.

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