Inciting Butthurt Among Local Conservatives
When your letter to the editor garners the condemnation of area conservatives, you know you’ve done your job.
I submitted my recent blog post about the Donald Trump presidential campaign to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (itself a bastion of anti-liberal thought), and they actually published it! Reaction from local GOP loyalists and Tea Potty people was swift and fierce. Here’s a sampling:
“In the letter published by the Daily Telegraph on July 29, the author decries the ‘hateful and elitist’ message of the Republican Party. He goes on to refer to a Harvard Law graduate and a Rhodes scholar (would he say the same about Barack Obama and Bill Clinton?) as ‘whack jobs.’ He further characterizes Donald Trump, a highly successful businessman, as ‘buffoonish,’ ‘obnoxious’ and ‘just plain nasty.’ He describes the voters who have responded positively to Mr. Trump’s message as ‘the knuckle-dragging crowd.’ And Republicans are hateful?”
“It is often difficult to decide if a frequent letter contributor is serious or only pulling our legs with his political discussions. In the July 29 paper, he discussed the pathetic Republican potential presidential field, particularly demeaning, or perhaps praising, its most noticeable members. He suggests that Mr. Trump is a source of entertainment, and typical of the party that produced one of our great presidents, Richard Nixon, destroyed because he scowled and had a five O’clock shadow, and Joe McCarthy who will forever be hated by liberals for accurately exposing the numerous communists in our government.”
“The author of the letter hammers some of the ‘bad boys’ such as Nixon, Joe McCarthy and, of course, his general label of so-called ‘whack jobs’ such as Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal. Now we have this brilliant citizen telling us that highly educated senators and Rhodes Scholar governors are ‘whack jobs.’ He has conveniently overlooked innumerous whack jobs in his own party! And he has the gall to refer to any hint of opposition to his ‘hazy’ views as people who are angry knuckle-draggers!”
It does my heart good when I can make grouchy old white men (the core of the GOP) gnash their teeth (or is that tooth?) and wring their hands in anguish.
When I worked at the paper, executive editor Tom Colley was alive. Tom actually invited me to write a weekly opinion column, which was unusual because I had no background in journalism at all — I was a graphic artist.
Tom himself was a conservative, but he didn’t toe the party line, had voted for Democratic candidates and was open to other opinions. To have such a great newsman ask me to write a column was an honor.
My column ran in the Thursday edition. On Fridays Tom never failed to let me know he had been bombarded with irate emails informing him the paper was going down the tubes for giving voice to a liberal like Don Zeigler, berating him personally for his poor judgment in publishing such tripe, or expressing hope that Mr. Zeigler would undergo a lobotomy, seek the advice of a mental health expert or find Jesus.
I eventually quit the newspaper after nine years there, because I could see the changes coming down the pike from the penny-pinching owners, Community Newspaper Holdings, who liked to increase profit margins at their papers by doing away with raises, slashing staff, implementing mandatory unpaid furloughs and never replacing old equipment or software. As for Tom Colley, he unfortunately died of a heart attack in early 2009.
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s editorial content veered hard right after Tom’s passing. They run token columns from writers like Ann McFeatters and Reg Henry, but these are confined to the print edition (the paid circulation of which has plummeted in recent years) and aren’t published on the newspaper’s website.
On Tuesdays, they publish the Tea Party-like mutterings of one James “Smokey” Shott, whose main claim to fame is he’s a member of the well-to-do family who founded the paper a century or so ago. Smokey never read a Heritage Foundation article he didn’t like, and doesn’t let facts get in the way of his rants against liberals.
The regular opinion columns from the so-called “editorial board” are generally more of the same thing, although once in a while they will recycle a news story and then add a few paragraphs to make it an editorial for or against something.
But I digress.
Anyhow, even after I left the newspaper, I continued to submit letters (actually short editorials) to the editor, and 90% of the time Tom Colley would print them. All that changed when he died. No matter what the topic, the paper would steadfastly refuse to publish anything I sent in, instead running rants and raves from local conservatives nearly exclusively. Left leaning folks like me had apparently lost our right to express our concerns within the pages of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
For some mysterious reason, starting late last year the newspaper once again began printing my letters. Maybe managing editor Samantha Perry was just sick of hearing from me and wanted to placate me. Perhaps she decided I wasn’t completely full of manure.
At any rate, I’m once again raising the ire of the area right wing that still actually reads the paper, and it feels great. To be perfectly honest, I believe my blog gets more reads than the paper’s editorial section these days, but there’s just something about the satisfaction of seeing your word on the printed page that can’t be surpassed.
I’m not going to let up on my nearly continuous criticism of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, however.
The paper isn’t what it used to be product and quality-wise and I’ve mentioned this numerous times since I left in 2007, through the blog and various social media channels. People have accused me of harboring some type of grudge, which simply isn’t true.
I loved my nine years there (at least until the last year or so), left on good terms and still have many friends on the staff. My right to critique what I feel has become a mostly mediocre publication is well-earned.
Maybe at some point they’ll once again refuse to print anything I send in. But until then, I’ll keep right on doing something I love, which is writing letters to the editor that point out the lies and hypocrisy of the right. For as long as it lasts, thanks, Samantha!