St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Holleman and his editors had to dodge some strange accusations this past week. These ranged from Holleman catching his editors sleeping, to amazement that his editors “allowed” him to write something they agreed with.
My longtime readers will know that prior to becoming Security Dude, I graduated from journalism school with the intention of eventually becoming a magazine editor. In the meantime, I spent a lot of time paying my dues writing for a daily newspaper. I’ve dealt with a number of editors. And they’ve dealt with me. Although I’m considered a moderate now, in the 1990s my now-moderate views qualified me as a conservative. My editors were always more liberal than me, so we had some disagreements.
But let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Editors don’t “let” you publish stories. They may change the stories somewhat, especially when less experience (either on the part of the writer or editor) is involved. The problem is that if they veto a story, then they have to fill that copy with something else.
And editors, contrary to what some think, aren’t generally in the business of pushing an agenda. By and large, they know their job is to make people think.
Columnists generally have even more leeway. If it’s not libelous or completely socially irresponsible, chances are the columnist will get the benefit of the doubt.
There’s an even more important lesson here than all of this, though. Just because you sometimes disagree with someone, or the publication they appear in, doesn’t mean you’ll always disagree with them. Even if you usually disagree, sometimes you’ll find yourself agreeing. Not that making you agree with them is the important thing. The important thing is that the newswriter made you think.