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On tomato planting and freedom of speech

By Dan Pool
Editor
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    Advice on tomato planting stretches the limits of the most creative gardeners.
    You can dig holes so deep only the tip of a tall plant is exposed; some believe in planting the root-ball and lower part of a plant sideways; there are those who only water their plants with a PVC pipe running directly to the roots; those who swear by certain soil mixtures; people who believe the leaves should be kept dry; numerous theories on fertilizers and even those who hang their plants upside down – as though God intended tomatoes to grow while suspended above the earth. And we’re not even getting into phases of the moon.
    For me, I usually just dig a hole and cover the roots with dirt, though I always listen and consider the exotic ‘mater growing methods.
    And, I take much the same approach running a weekly newspaper, striving to be open to hearing/presenting all views, even those I find obnoxious. And this takes effort on our part. As George Packer wrote in a recent essay in the New Yorker, “self censorship is the path of least resistance.” It would be much easier to only run articles we know people will like, that only praise and only highlight the great things about this county.
    We are well aware that this county votes overwhelmingly Republican, but when the Democrats clean roads, we still report that.
    As I discussed with a very polite, questioning caller recently, our general goal is to be inclusive of all views in this community.
    When asked if we were legally bound to run an Other Voices column by Andy Kippenhan in last week’s Progress, the answer is no. Freedom of speech means that people can say whatever they want but, with newspapers, we have the right to publish whatever we want and to leave out whatever we choose. We could have left it out.
    At the Progress, however, we don’t edit based on our whims. Whether I agree with something has little bearing on what ends up on our pages.
    And as I agreed with the caller, Mr. Kippenhan is clearly a provocateur. He wants to shock with his writing. Certainly on an extreme edge for Pickens County but he is expressing political/social views.
    Though it would be easier and safer to never publish extreme views, our philosophy of inclusiveness means we give a forum to people even when we know their views won’t sit well with others. It’s okay for someone to challenge established views; no one has to adopt the opinions presented and often people find that honest debate sharpens your own deeply-held beliefs. At least one person who has sparred previously with Mr. Kippenhan in letters was excited to see the column. He was planning his response when he left the Progress Wednesday.
    For me personally, I don’t want to be a gatekeeper of what views are presented to the  people who buy our paper every week. It’s a slippery slope – you start weeding out opinions you don’t like and where do you stop?
    A good editor should never reveal a bias, but even a cursory look at me and my two school-aged children shows that I am well-served by senior citizens continuing to pay their school taxes.
    But, if an editor started tailoring the coverage to his or her whims, what is to stop us from rejecting all the news/ads/opinion pieces of the seniors opposed to paying school taxes?
    Or what if we had only chosen to present one side of the recent chicken house fight?
    Or what if we didn’t accept restaurant reports that made our advertisers look bad? Or if we didn’t want anything that upsets the mayor to make the pages?
    Freedom of speech is a two way street. You get your voice presented but so do people who may say things that you don’t agree with.
    Our view remains, better to debate than silence.

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