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As the old Woody Guthrie song goes, “This land is your land, this land is my land.”

Everyone knows the rest of the lyrics of this song, and while I’m not exactly talking about land in this instance, I am referring to some valuable real estate in the Spirit of Jefferson, the Advocate (Opinion) page.

In any newspaper, one of the most read sections happens to be the opinion page.

From time to time, I think it’s important to give an explanation as to what the Advocate page is truly about.

It’s about opinions. Everyone has one and we encourage you to share your opinions on this page.

All we ask is that you write your own thoughts in a sincere matter. You don’t need to write a long opinion. Sometimes, a few words can say a lot. As Shakespeare once said, ‘Brevity is the soul of wit.”

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time trying to fact-check people. If you want to send in a letter proclaiming that the sky is in fact green, I may reach out to you to see if you need help. But after that conversation, I’ll likely still print what you wrote.  

It’s your opinion. I’m not going to get into the whole business of correcting people’s opinions. That just seems too authoritarian.

However, if other writers wish to correct you, I’m not going to stand in their way either.

In this day and age where everyone seems to have their own facts, we are in no way engaging in the fact checking game. By doing so, we would be taking sides and that’s not our job. However, it wouldn’t hurt to do your own little fact check of what you read on this page.

Everyone nowadays has a source that they can use to refute any opinion. I believe our readers are intelligent enough to make their own decisions about the sources they take seriously.

This is an opinion page. If you are interested in a reportage of cold hard facts, read elsewhere in the paper.

There’s nothing that I explicitly agree with on this page. Unless my name is at the top of the column like it is in this case, it’s not my opinion or that of this paper.

Now if you see something that says, “Our Voice,” that means that all of us here at the Spirit agree with the sentiment.

As it pertains to the Advocate page, my goal is to give everyone in the community a chance to speak their voice on any issue, regardless of whether I agree with it.

Every issue of the Spirit of Jefferson that we print is a public record of the events of Jefferson County and the stories of its citizens. Also, an important part of that record is the opinions of its citizens.

We are fine with opinions about national, state, or local politics, as long as they are from someone local to Jefferson County. I think they matter. Did someone help you out while you were stranded along side the road and you want to thank them? We’ll likely print that. That’s just one example. There are lots of other opinions we will likely publish.

However, you’ll never see a letter to the editor in our paper from someone hailing from California, New York,  or some other far-flung location, who have likely never even seen Jefferson County, wanting to tell us all how we should vote in an upcoming election. I’m particularly sensitive to astroturf campaigns aimed at our editorial page. Some people should just buy an ad.

Remember — this is prime real estate.

If someone from another part of the country submits a letter pertaining to a specific local issue we’ll likely print that. Either the issue or the person behind the letter has to be local in nature.

There are a couple of items we won’t print. We’re not big fans of name-calling or personal insults. We don’t like curse words or any form of general unpleasantness. Opinions are welcome. One other thing, we’re not looking to be used as a tool of revenge either.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone looking to submit a letter is whenever possible, keep it about the issues. Remember, the people you write about on this page are your friends and neighbors. And while you may disagree with them on a particular issue, they still have the right to their own opinions and deserve to be able to live their lives without fear of having their morals called into question.

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