Avis L. Tvedt, Lake Metigoshe
It was fascinating really, if somewhat on the tedious side. This fall I took it upon myself to do some fact finding regarding the Opinion Page of The Minot Daily News. Were most of the columns conservative in their viewpoint as many of my friends claimed? I determined to find out by reading each and every opinion for a period of one month. With pen in hand I took notes on all the columns printed in the Daily News between the dates of Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, 31 days to be exact. There were a total of 96. And what did I discover? Of those 96 columns 75 of them, or 78 percent were conservative opinions.
And that left 21 columns written with a liberal viewpoint. Right? Not exactly. Out of 96 columns I found exactly four, or 4 percent, with liberal opinions. The other 17 were written on a variety of topics, from George Will's columns on college football and the Bay of Pigs, to Froma Harrop's piece on online privacy, and Kathleen Parker's positive opinion of Pope Francis, to cite just a few.
I have not mentioned the 31 opinions written during that same time period by Daily News Editor Bryan Obenchain and Publisher Steve Herron. The two of them covered a wide range of topics including improvements at the YWCA, FEMA's work in Minot, and the proposed new airport terminal. But on 13 of the 31 days the topics turned to politics, and all 13 of those opinions were conservative.
It is difficult to know how to think about this, because, of course, The Minot Daily News can write what it wants to write all in the name of free speech. But on the other hand, doesn't a newspaper in a free society have an obligation to represent differing opinions on behalf of its readers?
And so you can argue that it did represent other opinions 4 percent of the time. So is that enough? What percentage of voters in this area are Republicans and therefore deemed more conservative, and how many are Democrats or on the liberal side of things? I used the outcome of the last presidential election to help me with that question, because it seemed like the votes cast for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama fell along party lines.
The lieutenant governor's office in North Dakota has a website that lists the results of the 2012 election, both by county and by state. In both Ward County and my own Bottineau County, Romney received close to 64 percent of the vote to Obama's 33 percent. Statewide Romney garnered 58 percent of the votes, and Obama received close to 39 percent. Based on these numbers one can be assured that there are at least a healthy number of liberal voters out there. In fact, statistically speaking, three out of 10 of the next people of voting age you see on the sidewalk outside the Daily News office or at the mall would be Democrats.
So what can be done about this? I would encourage Editor Obenchain and Publisher Herron to find and publish more liberal columns even at the point of it causing them pain. As it is, one would think that liberal opinions have no validity whatsoever, and, of course, 33 percent of us just don't think that is true. The other option would be to identify the Opinion Page as the conservative mouthpiece it now is.
Please do not take the time to tell me that if I don't like the paper, I don't have to read it. I thoroughly enjoy reading about the national and regional news and events in Minot, finding out what the Twins and Vikings are not doing right now (this too shall pass), Annie's Mailbox, the crossword puzzles, and, of course, those ads. But it's also important to me to be able to read opinions on both sides of an issue. As members of an informed society we should be able to read viewpoints, both conservative and liberal, in order to make better decisions for the good of our country.