Readers love to call our offices and ask questions. On most days, there is a young woman named Melissa who answers the phone. These readers who call in seem to be optimistic that Melissa just might be the conduit to all human knowledge. They will ask her about the quality of an advertised product. They will ask her about the ticket prices for an upcoming event, the final score of the game, or the voting results of a recent council action.
Truth be told, we love these calls. Melissa is very good at her job, quite pleasant and genuinely tries to help as much as she can. It is flattering that readers call us to ask questions about topics they deem important.
The two most common questions we are asked, however, are these:
“Why in the world do you run the Walter Williams column?” and even more popular, “Why do you not run Walter Williams on every single page?”
This week, we are featuring a special interview with Dr. Williams regarding an upcoming speaking engagement he has in town, so we thought we might get ahead of these callers by answering those questions in advance.
Why do we run the Walter Williams column? Because we believe that what he has to say is important, and nobody else in town will run it. It really is that simple.
Walter Williams is an important thinker, an excellent writer and a respectful human being. The communities we serve skew pretty heavily toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, and Williams reflects that. The other print news outlet in town leans liberal and yes, we think it is important to provide a foil to that viewpoint.
Are we aware that some of you disagree with Williams’ views? Of course, we are. The decision to feature his columns was not taken lightly, particularly in this day of sharp political divide. We actually experimented for a time with not featuring an opinion columnist at all. When Thomas Sowell – our former syndicated columnist and a close friend of Dr. Williams – retired, we tried some other things in that space.
It is true that, during that time, Melissa received fewer calls from readers who were angry about something we published. She also received fewer calls from readers who were thrilled with something we published. It seemed that the entire conversation within our community had gotten just a little less interesting.
Then, we found the wisdom of Walter Williams and were able to secure the rights to publish his column. Most of you loved the choice, some of you did not. But an undeniable energy returned to the community dialogue that had been missing for a while. We completely respect that some of you disagree with what Dr. Williams has to say. That is why we maintain a letters to the editor page, to give you an equal chance to respond. It is our policy to prioritize letters that disagree with us.
We put forth that our community is a better place when people read and discuss important thinkers like Dr. Williams. There is no better place in the world to be than between two smart, respectful people who disagree with one another. Too often these days, we forget to be respectful or go out of our way not to be smart. We hide from information with which we think we disagree.
Dr. Williams reminds us that well-formed, well-written arguments can be the basis of great community dialogue. We look forward to continuing that conversation.