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Editorial: Opinion pages are mix of viewpoints

Published 11:01am Friday, June 21, 2013

Newspapers, this one included, seek to have opinion pages that provide an array of viewpoints.

But opinion pages work differently than news papers, and that can throw some folks off the track of truth. Some readers know opinions can bring in fuzzy facts, but some do not.

Savvy readers know that facts stated in news stories typically are more credible and less biased than ones on opinion pages, where authors are making arguments using that suits their needs.

Also, if we publish a column where the author calls for the privatization of all public schools, it does not mean the Albert Lea Tribune agrees with that person. If that author uses questionable facts and figures, it doesn’t mean the Tribune backs those facts because, as opinion writers will tell you, the line between fact and opinion is blended. An editorial writer’s opinion might be that the sky is blue. Yours might be that it is gray. No matter what, we both think the other side is 100 percent false.

The Tribune published a column last Friday by Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment and the author of “Democracy Denied.” He slammed the ethanol industry quite harshly in his writing.

The Tribune knows the Albert Lea area is a strong supporter of ethanol and published such an alarming column not as a sign of endorsement but to allow locals see what the other side is saying. Informed people want to know both sides, and the newspaper is a common place to get other views. We have published pro-ethanol pieces in past years and welcome more.

A writer of an opinion piece — such as a letter or a column — has the power to dissuade as well as persuade. Just because a letter or column is printed doesn’t mean readers believe and follow what is written. Newspaper readers tend to be educated and intelligent. They are skeptical and have a good filter for deceptive nonsense.

Kerpen, who no doubt has funding from fossil fuel companies, was fortunate to have his views printed in ethanol country. It doesn’t mean ethanol country believed Kerpen, but they now know the kinds of spin coming from his ilk. That is, if they didn’t already know.

If anything, we hope it spurs the ethanol supporters to do more to get the word out to the public about the benefits of ethanol. Gary Pestorious on Thursday took the first step. Now others have to step to the plate and do their part.