It's editorials, not columnists, that must keep the debate local


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After reading the letter by Jack Flynn, I wonder if he needs a lesson in the difference between editorial and opinion ("Forget Bush and keep the dialogue local," June 22). Ken Trainor writes an opinion column. I can tell because his name is attached to it. Traditionally an opinion columnist writes about pretty much anything.

In the Chicago Tribune this week, Metro columnist Mary Smitch writes about her difficulty playing "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. Eric Zorn writes about Senator Durbin and how he owes no apology for speaking the truth regarding the outrageous abuse stories at Guantanamo Bay. Over in the New York Times, David Brooks casually equates our efforts in Iraq with the American Revolutionary War. And though I haven't seen it in years, I am sure that the editor of the Oak Leaves is offering a hundred or so words about how he just doesn't understand what's happening with people these days. In each of these cases there are a multitude of more important local issues these writers are ignoring.

On the editorial side of the Journal, last week we saw one column about District 97's new superintendent and another about Cummings Memorial in River Forest. I may be wrong, but in my 9 years here I don't recall a single instance when a JOURNAL editorial ranged outside local issues. This is perfectly appropriate for a community newspaper because it represents the opinion of the editorial staff of the newspaper, not an individual.

Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and New York Times have a more national and international focus so we see editorials that embrace a wider range of issues. The Tribune, for instance, a conservative newspaper which endorsed Bush for President, has an editorial decrying the announcement by Jeb Bush, the President's brother and current Governor of Florida, that he has decided to prolong the agony over the Terry Schaivo case by launching an inquiry into what the husband did on the day she collapsed. This is called journalism and it is why the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times are well read and well regarded.

Mr. Flynn's complaint would be legitimate if the editorial columns in the Journal were more like those in other papers. Perhaps he gets his ideas on journalistic integrity from the Wall Street Journal, which has a naked self-interest in limited government and social Darwinism to better enrich its ownership and subscribers.

Instead of limiting itself to promoting capitalism, it uses its editorials to belittle its political opposition. If Mr. Flynn is looking for advocacy journalism there are plenty of resources available. On the local front there is also another choice for a community weekly. If he cares enough about local issues I think he will realize the Journal, Ken Trainor included, is his best option.

Rob Peterson
Oak Park

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