, Newburyport, MA

February 1, 2013

Democracy demands conversation

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

On the very day that your editorial headline declared, “‘Conversation on guns was over before it started” (Jan. 22), I was ready to send a letter congratulating you for serving as an outlet for your readers’ personal and communal distress over the Newtown massacre.

In the weeks since Newtown, as was the case a year ago following the “stand your ground” shooting in Florida, The Daily News editorial page has offered numerous letters and columns reflecting a spectrum of views on the Second Amendment, access to guns, assault and automatic weapons, mental health and the glorification of violence in the media.

In Newburyport, the conversation regarding guns has been healthy, and you deserve credit for that.

Or you did until you called that very conversation finished, insinuating that it never existed, and mocked it with the charge that anyone seeking common-sense regulation wants only to “harangue law-abiding citizens ... on how evil and immoral they are.”

There are just three possible explanations for your about-face, any of which would explain why editorials — unlike all letters and columns — are unsigned:

1. The editor who wrote it pays no attention to the editorial page.

2. It was written by an editor at your parent company, the Eagle Tribune, turning the paper in Newburyport into a mere colony of the corporate empire based in North Andover.

3. It was the product of someone in the even larger corporate network of the American Legislative Exchange (ALEC), as identified with right-wing causes — including the NRA’s “stand your ground” laws — as the Eagle-Tribune. This would explain why the editorial was based mostly on two incidents that occurred in New York state, a far cut-and-paste from State Street.

To clear this up, I challenge you to give your readers a true record of the authorship of your editorials.

Intelligent conversation would seem to be at the very heart of what drives and sustains a democracy. The role played by newspapers like yours in conveying that conversation accurately cannot be overestimated.

Presently, those of us working to build a Greater Newburyport Public Forum are looking to develop what may become two forums about “Violence in America.” We envisage the first of these events to be a fact-finding, informative session, formulating some key questions for our focus. In the second, later forum we would project having speakers, printed materials, visuals to recommend positions as answers to previously identified questions. Overall, the effort would be toward problem solving, increased awareness and agreement on policy concerns on the local level, keeping in mind policy directions being taken on the state and national level.

We will be soliciting information and advice in the near future from city and school officials, police, mental health workers and concerned citizens for this series on violence. We sense too that knowledgeable spokespersons will emerge on various aspects of this complex area of concern in American culture. We encourage them to identify themselves — to the Greater Newburyport Public Forum, brought to this writer’s attention.

Walter Mott