Editorial: Don’t fear dissent — or support | ParkRecord.com

Editorial: Don’t fear dissent — or support

There's no issue, locally, nationally or internationally, on which people are of one mind. We can't even agree about what time it should be on the moon (yet).

After we published an article last week about the ongoing rumpus over the proposed Dakota Pacific project near Kimball Junction, “Limited but strong support for Tech Center development emerges,” we saw a few comments that were so sharply worded, castigating The Park Record for reporting on any support for the development, that we wondered whether we were in agreement about what news is and what news organizations such as ours do.

There’s hardly a soul in Summit County who is unaware that many voices have been raised in strong and sometimes rancorous opposition to the Dakota Pacific project. We feel confident in that statement because The Park Record has published many of them. A recent Park Record guest editorial, for instance, calls Dakota Pacific “soulless, immoral, unethical, and greedy.” And that’s fair game. People have a right to punch up. The people behind these voices are taking their parts in acts as fundamental to this democracy as the Boston Tea Party.

We should remember, too, that there were British loyalists in the colonies in the Tea Party days who were treated atrociously for holding views that once had been de rigueur. During World War I, Americans who demonstrated in opposition to the war and the draft were jailed. Some were deported to the Soviet Union while the U.S. Supreme Court took a nap. As the republic has grown, it has remained radically itself while becoming more tolerant of dissent. We’d like to think Americans believe it’s better to countenance it, and learn from it if we can, than to quash it. We believe we’re ultimately better this way.

There’s no issue, locally, nationally or internationally, on which people are of one mind. We can’t even agree about what time it should be on the moon (yet). There are important arguments to be made for free ski parking for locals, deficit spending, and the defense of Ukraine; even if we support none of those things, we are stronger for considering them. There’s probably no one sane person who would love, like or even agree with everything that is said just in a single issue of The Park Record — and that too is as it should be. We don’t issue marching orders. We try to provide food for thought; to inform, not compel.

In our news coverage of Dakota Pacific, we’ve written prolifically about the opposition to the project. We’ve written about it almost exclusively because it’s been manifest — and that’s the news. But it’s not all of the news. No one article ever is. When some support for the project emerges, as it did at a recent Summit County Council hearing, that’s a fact which the most hardened opponents should at least want to consider. And even if Dakota Pacific opponents vastly outnumber supporters, as seems to be the case, we still want to hear from both sides.

One recent commenter who opposes the project counted the number of words that were given to the supporters of the project in the “Limited but strong support” article, the words that were given to opponents, and concluded this ratio was not representative of the size and force of the opposition in the community.

This would be a stronger argument if the article were all we had to say about Dakota Pacific, but it’s not. It would be a stronger argument, too, if journalism were a strictly quantitative endeavor and we hired mathematicians as reporters. We probably couldn’t afford mathematicians, however, and then there is the small matter of not knowing what to do with them if we could.

Journalism is a quantitative and qualitative pursuit, both. The “what” and the “how many” are equally important. If we only wrote about support for Dakota Pacific, no matter how qualitatively well we did that, it would be disproportionate, at odd with the facts and poor reporting. And the same would be true if some strong but limited support for Dakota Pacific emerged at a Summit County Council hearing, such as a neighboring apartment complex manager saying there is a pressing need for still more apartments beside his — and we ignored that because while it sure seems like news to us, it doesn’t fit with the predominant opposition. That last judgment isn’t in our job descriptions. Here’s what is: We try to bring you a range of views, consistent with the facts, so that you can shape your own, well-informed opinions.

And if one day a man bites a dog, we might tell you about that, too, for legendary reasons.

If we do our jobs right, you may from time to time see a statement in The Park Record with which you disagree, even strongly. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, especially on the opinion pages. Disagreement can be an essential, wonderful thing. It’s only when you’re being told to march in lockstep that you should fear what comes next.


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