At the beginning of the year, The Independent took on a new editor, Jason Gottfried. He has been tasked with the very difficult job of basically single-handedly overseeing the editorial content of The Independent. It’s also the first time in about four years that we’ve decided to employee a single editor at the helm rather than coordinate a managing editor as well as an assistant editor, which Jason previously was (along with at one point being the opinion editor) for the last three years. This system has its benefits as well as some drawbacks. It benefits from the efficiencies of one person and one brain working through all the tasks necessary to publish volumes of content, which we do online at suindependent.com daily. The drawbacks are as you might expect, empowering one individual with both the power and responsibility of being able to publish content at will and without a second editor to bounce the ideas off of, and also line editing can be risky.
If you don’t read us online, you’ve been missing all the amazing debate that’s been happening there since he took the helm at the start of the year. We’ve published controversial content for many years, but he’s definitely pushed some buttons and ruffled some feathers in his short time at the helm. Which brings me to the point of this article here today.
For many years, I’ve felt like the public and our readership has defined us. That’s to say that we’ve been seen as a champion of many progressive causes to the point where The Independent has been labeled “the liberal rag” by its detractors and “the only local publication I read” by many progressives or those in the counterculture here in sunny southern Utah. In the last 22 years we’ve published content of virtually every political slant you can think of, but because of a perception that we support progressive ideas (partly based on the fact that we’ve covered events and happenings of minority voices in the area) on the occasion when we publish a conservative viewpoint we often get questioned, attacked, and even abandoned by our more liberal readers. But The Independent isn’t a liberal rag. Or a conservative one. For over two decades we’ve offered an uncensored platform for all, “a clearinghouse of ideas” if you will, a catchline I’ve used since the days when The Independent was known as The Revolution.
In no way are we abandoning our interest in covering LGBT+ issues, minority-created movements or events, alternative and counterculture topics, or happenings — all of those things are areas we are proud to offer coverage of and exposure for. But I want to be clear on what The Independent is and what it isn’t.
The Independent is for all. All ideas. All political and religious persuasions. All topics, subjects, ideas, and conversations. This includes the publishing of many opinions that I completely disagree with … and frankly, it always has. In this time of a very polarized populace, The Independent stands firmly for freedom of speech. Not to get corny or anything, but I am often reminded of the famous quote attributed to Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” At its very core, The Independent stands for this most important right. It’s fine and dandy that the Constitution protects us all from Congress making laws that would restrict free expression, but it’s pointless if there are no venues to do it.
Some have suggested that as editor Gottfried shouldn’t be allowed to write opinion pieces, or that he speaks for The Independent, and I personally disagree with both of those positions. To silence him under our universal policy of publishing all ideas (outside of personal attacks and hate speech) would truly be censorship, by definition. Is it easy for anyone to say as the editor he represents The Independent? Sure it does, but editors of many, dare I say most, publications share a similar policy of allowing for any individual to voice their own opinions under their own name. And even if other publications don’t — and that’s their prerogative and is totally understandable in the interest of avoiding the possible confusion of the positions of a publication versus the editor — The Independent has never taken that position. Every editor we’ve ever had has published personal opinion pieces as their own ideas while also carrying out their duties of acquiring, editing, and publishing content. Does this position set us up to be criticized? Sure it does, but I’ve always felt the benefits outweigh the perception of possible conflicts.
John Dalberg-Acton is credited as saying “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So does Jason have the potential of wielding his publishing power in a way questionable to some readers? Sure he does. But again, that’s the risk I as the publisher of The Independent have always taken.
It is often a difficult task for me to defend the musings of any writer or editor with the simple statement of “free speech,” but that truly is the defining characteristic of The Independent far more than anything else. “But why?” many ask me. “How can you publish and therefore promote ideas that some find offensive, insensitive, biased, or angry?” Because ideas are simply that. Ideas. Concepts. Thoughts. And ideas are meant to be challenged. Many cultural and social norms of yesteryear are now history, gone by the wayside through the natural progression of society through debate, application, observation, and acceptance — the key word in that last sentence to me being “debate.”
We cannot have social evolution without open dialog of controversial ideas and topics. To silence Gottfried (or any individual interested in voicing their own ideas) runs absolutely counter to the premise upon which The Independent was created. Does that mean we’ll be running extreme opinions and letters as right wing as you’ll see on Breitbart? Yes. And will we have writers who’ll continue to pen left-wing columns you’ll find on the most liberal publications such as Huffington Post? Yes, yes we will. Some will say that we are just after clicks, appealing to the lowest common denominator of angry extremists on both sides, but please allow me to point out that there is a lot of other content that gets far more clicks per the effort such as drug arrests and car accidents, and we will never publish those. We also do not publish articles with click-baity headlines, only to not deliver the goods. When we post to social networks, we follow a format of running the headline of the story along with a pull-out quote from the actual article. If we were only after clicks, we’d certainly be doing it differently. Instead, we are all about creating dialog. Debate. Discussions. The challenging and expanding of ideas among our readership. If that’s not for you, that’s totally fine, but please understand our mission, which currently reads, “The mission of The Independent is to connect our communities to local arts, music, theater, dance, and other creative endeavors through stories and information. It also serves as a clearinghouse of ideas, a marketplace of thought through words and free expression, those ideals that connect us all.”
So in the same way as most folks in any movement or group want to be able to define themselves, I too am here to do that. You may not like every piece of content The Independent publishes, but I hope you’ll appreciate that we are in a minority of publications willing to take the risk of offending you for the greater purpose of challenging your positions with new ideas or arguments. It doesn’t always make us a lot of fans, but that’s not why I do this. I’ve heard it said by many that of all places southern Utah needs a voice like The Independent. However controversial or incendiary some individual pieces might appear, they only work to frame in the space available to all. I hope you’ll consider this an invitation to have your own voice heard. Please send letters to the editor or guest opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org, even if Gottfried doesn’t like what you have to say, I all but guarantee we’ll publish them. Happy reading … and writing.
The viewpoints expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of The Independent.
Articles related to “What The Independent is, and what it isn’t”
How to submit an article, guest opinion piece, or letter to the editor to The Independent
Do you have something to say? Want your voice to be heard by thousands of readers? Send The Independent your letter to the editor or guest opinion piece. All submissions will be considered for publication by our editorial staff. If your letter or editorial is accepted, it will run on suindependent.com, and we’ll promote it through all of our social media channels. We may even decide to include it in our monthly print edition. Just follow our simple submission guidelines and make your voice heard:
—Submissions should be between 300 and 1,500 words.
—Submissions must be sent to email@example.com as a .doc, .docx, .txt, or .rtf file.
—The subject line of the email containing your submission should read “Letter to the editor.”
—Attach your name to both the email and the document file (we don’t run anonymous letters).
—If you have a photo or image you’d like us to use and it’s in .jpg format, at least 1200 X 754 pixels large, and your intellectual property (you own the copyright), feel free to attach it as well, though we reserve the right to choose a different image.
—If you are on Twitter and would like a shout-out when your piece or letter is published, include that in your correspondence and we’ll give you a mention at the time of publication.