Letter to the Editor: Never close the door on public discourse, says professor

I was quite impressed with the humorous front-page headline on last week’s edition of The Rider News — especially since some of my students missed class to attend the canceled concert. But that initial impression quickly turned to confusion and disappointment. At the bottom of the Letters to the Editor section, The Rider News stated that it “will no longer be accepting letters in regard to the April 3 letter from Craig Peterson.” How, I wonder, is it possible to no longer accept letters on any topic? Regardless, whether The Rider News wishes to publish letters on any topic is certainly an editorial decision and is par for the course in journalism.
But I am thoroughly confused why any media outlet would inform readers that this issue is no longer worthy of discussion to the point of discouraging public discourse. The issue was a former alumnus — a journalism alumnus no less — expressing his sincere opinion some 30 years after he graduated about one of Rider’s coaches. I would hope that, 30 years in the future, current members of the editorial staff of The Rider News are still interested in their alma matter and not only follow events at Rider but are also even willing to write in and start a great discussion regardless whether it is about sports or Rider in general.
With the various opinions and the amount of interest, it seems quite clear that the issue deserves more attention rather than a mere cautionary note on the bottom of the page informing readers not to waste their time — the time of The Rider News or of readers — by writing about the topic. I hate to think of the impact this statement has had on student and community readers.
One of the fundamental cores of journalistic integrity is serving as a conduit for the voices of people. When those people are seemingly admonished for wanting to express their interests, the voices of people do not have a chance.
This topic is about sports, which is quite an important topic for many, but I’d hate to see the outcry if a media outlet claimed, for example, that the Iraq war has been discussed enough and it’s time to move on.

Dr. David R. Dewberry
Assistant Professor Department of Communication & Journalism
Editor, Communication Law Review

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