Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Did you review our “10 editorial principles”?

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Greg Peck
Monday, January 6, 2014

I was fairly new to the role of writing daily editorials when a decade ago the Gazette Editorial Board sat down and drafted 10 principles to guide our editorial views. As I explained in Sunday's editorial, we keep these standards in mind and try to be true to them.

We acknowledge that at times one principle can conflict with another. While we support economic development, that development might include offering incentives that add to our tax burden, at least temporarily. The long-term goals, of, course, are to generate more taxes through higher future property values and the economic benefits of family-supporting jobs.

We also acknowledged that, in early 2012, we backtracked on a principle to oppose expansion of gambling. Does that mean we did a flip-flop? Does a politician deserve ridicule when new information convinces him or her to change stances on an issue? Did we take a reasoned approach to reversing course on gambling?

In this case, our principle raised concerns that many casino jobs offer low pay, and that economic benefits might not offset problems that habitual gamblers impose on families and society.

We realized, however, that jobs have been slow to come as Rock County's economy struggles to recover from the Great Recession and the loss of auto-related jobs about five years ago. In January 2012, we threw support behind the Ho-Chunk Nation's proposed Beloit complex after speaking with state Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, a Beloit native. She told us how casinos near Bayfield and in Green Bay have stirred more economic development. She suggested a Beloit casino might draw convention and meeting business from Madison.

It seemed odd to drop a principle and continue with just nine. So in Sunday's editorial, we restated the remaining nine and added one new one. No. 10 states: “The Gazette believes in providing a forum for a range of opinions from across the political spectrum. Through this exchange of ideas, we hope the best ideas emerge to help lead our communities, state and nation forward.”

This new principle doesn't speak to our editorial positions. It does, however, reinforce our vow to keep our editorial pages open to all viewpoints. I hear consistently from readers who just don't understand that position, given The Gazette's history of strong conservative leanings when we endorse candidates for office.

For example, just last week we printed an anonymous Sound Off caller's comment criticizing our recent editorial that praised Congressman Ryan for the budget compromise. This reader suggested Ryan “only cares about big business and the rich.” The reader added: “I'm sure you will never print this in your right-wing paper.”

Of course we did. It was ironic that the reader was applauding a recent column we printed by Tom Breu of the Democratic Party of Rock County that likewise criticized Ryan and our editorial about the congressman.

See what I mean about being willing to print both sides?

As I wrote in Sunday's editorial, “We don't pretend to have all the answers. We continue to seek the community's input, and in doing so we welcome opposing views.”

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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