“Expert” Opinions and the News Gazette

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Some time back I received an email response from John Foreman, editor of the News-Gazette mildly taking me to task for a piece I wrote that appeared in the Public Eye. His problem stemmed from the fact that mention was made that it had been rejected for publication in the News-Gazette but failed to give the reason for the rejection.  Foreman’s objection was that my commentary dealt with American foreign policy and “while you are a smart, thoughtful guy you have no particular expertise” in that area.   That struck me as strange, they had printed several commentaries I had written previously that dealt with matters well beyond the local issues of which I supposedly have some “expertise.”

It would appear that to now qualify to offer a publishable opinion piece in the News-Gazette I would be advised to stay within the confines of Champaign County and limit myself to local history, local government or conservation. In contrast, should Henry Kissinger offer an opinion piece on foreign policy, given his “expertise,” the News-Gazette would jump over the fence to print it. But what makes an opinion legitimate, and who can be considered a valid “expert?” When Kissinger worked in foreign policy, he often got it wrong. As chief foreign policy adviser to Richard Nixon, he supported the Administration’s policy to continue the war in Vietnam in a so-called search for an “honorable” settlement. The result was an end to the violence with terms tantamount to defeat that cost the needless loss of the lives of thousands of American servicemen. Is Kissinger more of an expert than I about the Vietnam War when I am on record as opposing the war as a mistake and wrong from the outset? Arguably, I was also right in my opinions about the inadvisability of the illegal and ultimately tragic invasion of Iraq, in contrast to foreign policy expert, Gen. Colin Powell.  Again, who is the expert?

The commentary published in the Public i and rejected by the News Gazette, “Who Want’s War With Iran?” was regarding the seriousness of a potential armed conflict with Iran over its nuclear program. If my track record is any indication, I believe my analysis is valid. I have followed national and international affairs for more than a half a century, and as a teacher who taught American History, I have been trained in thoughtful analysis that applies across disciplines and geography. My letters to the editor over the years are proof not only of my interest but of my background and knowledge. While I found John Foreman’s decision disappointing, will continue to subscribe to the News-Gazette despite the bias in the editorial policy that leans to the right of the political spectrum.

I have argued with some of my liberal friends regarding the value of our local newspaper. Unfortunately the bias in the editorial policies certainly goes beyond the oped page. However, to stay reasonably informed on local affairs, in which I am also quite interested, the print news media is essential.  No other source has the capability of in-depth and investigative coverage that local newspapers offer.  But in recognizing the current restrictions I face with the News-Gazette, my commentaries must now be offered only to the Public Eye.  There will be no need for any further mention of a rejection by the News-Gazette.

About Dannel McCollum

Dannel McCollum, a former Champaign mayor and a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in 2002, is a historian and a freelance writer.
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