On Tuesday in this space, the Tribune published the first five of ten commitments that are a guideline for what readers should expect from the editorial pages of our newspapers. Six through 10 are outlined below.
Each Nov. 24 Freedom Communications Inc., owner of this newspaper, celebrates Founder’s Day, the birthday of Raymond Cyrus Hoiles (1878-1970). He founded the media company on this day in 1935.
R.C. Hoiles’ passion for his libertarian principles, and the enduring legacy of both, sets Freedom Communications apart from its contemporaries.
6. The purpose of the editorial and op-ed pages is to publish commentary from writers across the spectrum when they champion human liberty or when the position taken can be cited, on the same day, as an example of a position taken contrary to human liberty.
Readers might see, on any given day, an op-ed from a “liberal” writer or a “conservative” writer, but the columnists will have one thing in common — their point in some way advances human liberty. Our op-ed pages focus on columns that advocate such ideas and we will most often decline to give space to those we consider enemies of human liberty.
If a columnist is published presenting an idea counter to the philosophy of the editorial pages, we label it as a “rebuttal” to our position or otherwise note its contrary opinion.
Freedom Communications’ op-ed pages also look beyond the mere political to discuss and highlight that which is apolitical, non-political, cultural or just fun — aspects of life essential to the well being of a civilization of freedom.
7. Editorial writers will be expected, without evasion, to answer readers’ questions about their positions and challenges to their consistency.
R.C. loved engaging people in what he called “close reasoning.” R.C. held that “you could not reason from an analogy.” He was known for stopping associates in the hallways to discuss issues and challenge their thinking. He kept a ready stash of leaflets on philosophy, economics, world affairs.
He opened the pages of his newspaper to criticism of his philosophies by establishing a regular column called “The Clearing House,” where readers could express their views. R.C. welcomed the opinions of his readers and relished the opportunity to respond and “enlighten” them.
We carry on the same tradition today, with a robust letters page that is a forum for and a service to readers to reflect their diverse interest and opinions, from all points of view.
8. Editorial pages are encouraged to promote human liberty through printed and public symposia and other means of public discourse.
Freedom editorial associates often participate in community forums. We welcome suggestions from readers about events they would like to see us sponsor. Many of our newspapers have developed robust online discussions, Web blogs and other postings of community interest.
9. Editorial pages shall find creative ways to challenge readers to solve community problems with ideas that do not involve coercion, especially government force. We should be willing to offer suggestions about real-life, concrete problems rather than simply abstract theories — and be open to suggestions from readers and others.
R.C. concentrated on applying his principles to a situation or issue in a way that suggested a solution that led to more freedom, not less, for individuals. Similarly, today’s editorials seek solutions that do not rely on the government as the first-reach solution. For instance, in a debate about proposed after-school care to be run by the government, the editorial might point out the extensive care that already exists among private organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA, and how they might be expanded.
10. Editorial writers should use all the rhetorical tools at their disposal, remembering that a deep fund of good will and personal conviction are the most persuasive elements of all.
R.C. was known for his fearless and vigorous advocacy. But more important, he lived the life of his convictions. He ran his company based on integrity and life-long learning, and he valued principle above money — although he was a prudent financial manager. He supported a variety of charities anonymously.
His beliefs, at core, were warmly optimistic about the nature of human beings. “I have faith that man is perfectible even if he is fallible,” he wrote in 1953. “I have faith in my wife and children and grandchildren, and in all men who will answer questions without evasion about what they are advocating.”