saternow, lynn 2010

Lynn Saternow

Here are some thoughts from a guy who was reminded Thursday that politicians and newspaper columnists are like Thanksgiving turkeys — all three need to be carved up before you know if they are any good.

I found it interesting recently when a couple of letters to the editor took The Herald’s editorials and columns to task for criticizing politicians. One writer said it is difficult to get people to run for office because the media is critical of things that politicians do.

That was naive at best. There were still 22 Republicans who applied for the open position for Mercer County commissioner. It proves they weren’t too worried about whether the media approves of everything they do.

Many public jobs pay very well and provide great benefits and pensions. Candidates who run for office realize their decisions may be open to criticism.

The same goes for newspaper columnists. Politicians and writers put themselves on the line. I have some advice for both: Never take yourself too seriously.

You will never be right about everything in everybody’s eyes. When people come up to me and say, “I agree with everything you write,” I usually laugh and say, “Man, there must be something wrong with you!”

Newspapers that don’t publish editorials and keep the public informed of whether things are being done correctly aren’t doing their jobs. Their reporters and editors should know a lot more and be closer to the inner workings of various political bodies than the average person on the street. The paper needs to share what it knows with the public.

Good politicians understand that. For example:

I recently attended a “Senior Follies” banquet and sat next to Mercer County Commissioner Olivia Lazor, whom I have been known to criticize in the past. We actually had a very enjoyable evening, discussing issues and chatting. People came up to take photos of us sitting next to each other.

There were even comments that she and I should sing a duet at next year’s follies. Now you may not know this, but Ms. Lazor is an accomplished opera singer, while I am an accomplished shower singer.

She made the point that we could sing an opera duet, but of course in opera “one of the people dies.” I’m not sure, but I think she may have been referring to me!

She and I both realize that politicians have a job to do and newspaper columnists have a job to do. If we both tried to make the other happy all the time, we wouldn’t be doing those jobs properly.

Just think where we would be if the media only wrote good things about George W. Bush or Dick Cheney and never criticized what they do. We would probably be in the middle of World War III instead of just the possible beginning of it.

Where would we be if local media didn’t criticize various moves by county, municipal and school governing bodies? These people could do anything they wanted if there were no watchdogs on guard.

While editorials and columns give viewpoints, they aren’t going to convince everybody that what’s written is right. But the most important thing about them is: They make people think about the issues.

As for the people who write occasionally to criticize the paper for expressing opinions, they should realize they are allowed to express those opinions only because a newspaper is allowed to do the same.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Use it — keep those cards and letters coming in!

Herald Sports Editor Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion page.

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