"You're an idiot," was the caller's final remark.
I had just finished explaining my thought process for selecting an editorial cartoon, the perspective of which this gentleman disagreed with. It wasn't meant to convince him that he should agree with the cartoon -- I know a fool's errand when I see one -- but maybe I could least convince him that a perspective other than his own might be fair game for a cartoonist.
My explanation failed.
It wasn't the first time someone reached a similar conclusion about my intelligence, nor will it be the last.
Call it the price of admission if you're going to be an editor of pages dedicated to the expression of opinions.
It's hard for some folks to fathom this, but I like all opinions. That's not to say I agree with them all, but what's not to like about the concept that people can seize an opportunity to express themselves and articulate a viewpoint?
Some callers over the years cannot be convinced of that. A few have been certain all my decisions are based on whether a cartoon or a letter to the editor agrees with my perspective. And yet, I've devoted the same level of energy and effort to the editing process of letters I completely disagree with as those more in the ballpark of my way of thinking.
It's far more important to me that our editorial pages are interesting than agreeable to one way of thinking.
Readers of our opinion pages -- such as the editorial page, the Voices page, our weekend Perspectives section -- might also be interested to know no single editor is making decisions about what readers see each day. Some columns, cartoons and letters to the editor are selected by editors in Little Rock, providing a healthy dose of perspectives from across our great state and from a variety of syndicated columnists or editorial writers. Some editorials originate there too, while others emerge from the discussions of our five-member editorial board here in Northwest Arkansas.
And, of course, the cartoonists and columnists have free reign to express their opinions. Their viewpoints and even their subject matter are up to them. As an editor, I just try to avoid knowingly letting any mistakes in.
It seems the editorial cartoons are what really get people riled up from time to time. Perhaps it's because editorial cartoonists, in a single frame of artwork, can often clear away the clutter surrounding an issue and offer biting commentary.
This particular caller didn't appreciate all the lofty ideals of free expression. I was wrong to have selected the cartoon I selected, according to his way of thinking. It crossed the line, he suggested.
I'll be the first to admit cartoonists are known for crossing lines from time to time. With thousands of readers looking at their work, someone's line is getting crossed just about every day. The caller's line and my line clearly didn't match up.
So is everything acceptable in this daily celebration of expression? No.
I select from a collection of cartoons made available to me through a service this newspaper pays for. Most of them originate here in the United States, but some are done by cartoonists at newspapers on other parts of the globe. In some of those other countries, there must be more acceptance of crude cartoons that use bodily functions or portrayals of sexual relations to make their point. Let's just say there are some involving President Trump and Vladimir Putin that I would never want to be responsible for putting in front of a general audience of readers.
A few readers who have offered their thoughts in recent weeks seem mostly bothered by what I acknowledge is a heavy dose of criticisms against our new president. Cartoonists tend to gravitate as a group toward topics or people who are at the forefront of the news. Trump, more than anyone else in the last few weeks and months, is a larger-than-life spectacle. And the, shall we say, less-than-traditional approach to leadership he employs practically begs for commentary.
He's the Howard Stern of presidential politics. You can like him or hate him, but it's pretty darned hard to ignore him.
Other issues will arise that capture the attention of columnists and cartoonists, but I just don't think Trump and his approach to governing will stop attracting attention anytime soon.
Do I get tired of Trump-related cartoons? Honestly, yes. I'd like a little variety of perspectives and subjects. It's just the editorial page editor in me.
Commentary on 02/13/2017
Print Headline: Crossing someone's line