Not since the days of Gordon Nordquist, more than two decades ago, have I engaged in newsprint banter with the folks at The Marshfield Mail.
Gordon sold the paper.
And I’ve aged.
But I’m not too old to read a fellow county newspaper and see the words of its “face,” in this case its editor and general manager, essentially chastising the paper’s paid readership on its website last Friday morning with an opening sentence that reads, “Marshfield, I’m disappointed with you.”
Feel fortunate, Mail readers.
She was going to replace the word disappointed with “disgusted,” her prose said.
Well done, Karen.
That’s sure the way to drum up readership in an era where paid newspaper circulation is falling nationwide, national trust in all media has fallen to record lows, and the overwhelming belief among people in “flyover” states, such as ours, is that most journalists are whiny, know-it-all types whose cups are full of condescending advice and empty when it comes to understanding the mindset of the readers who ultimately pay the bills.
Over in Marshfield, the topic was a mask mandate.
Marshfield’s city council was considering one.
A majority of those who shared their opinions were against it.
That majority, by my count, includes a pair of elected state representatives, many business owners and lots of residents.
Fact is, people in Marshfield don’t seem to want a mask mandate.
I don’t blame them.
I don’t want one in Seymour, either.
It seems like an exercise in futility.
Unlike Karen (that’s her real name, by the way) over at The Mail HQ, I’ve actually had COVID-19. I have preexisting medical conditions. I’m diabetic. I’ve got a compromised immune system, courtesy of a very bad bout with Legionnaire’s Disease a few years ago that required more than a week in a hospital bed.
Yet I survived.
Without fighting for my life.
Unless a vaccine arrives in short order, it’s likely all of us in Webster County, and everywhere else for that matter, will catch coronavirus. It’s highly contagious.
But it’s not The Black Plague.
It’s not the Spanish Flu of the late-1910s.
It’s the flu, albeit a bad flu.
Infection rates are high.
Actual deaths are comparatively low.
Yet COVID-19, courtesy of the national media focused on removing President Donald Trump from office this November, is portrayed as a human-hunting version of a biblical black-locust invasion.
“Any governing body that doesn’t at least consider ways of protecting its citizens is guilty of malpractice,” Karen wrote to Mail readers.
Does that include city planning-and-zoning commissions?
City park boards?
Local water districts?
Village boards in small communities like Diggins?
What about regional fire-district boards?
Everything listed above qualifies as a governing body, right?
Or maybe some folks are just a bit too worked up about COVID-19 and its trumped-up impact.
And way too personal and preachy, like Karen.
Here are a few basic facts, folks, given in the form of a David Letterman “Top 10” list:
10. America is the greatest nation in the world’s history.
9. No people in the world’s history have had more freedom than Americans.
8. No people in the world’s history have had more economic prosperity than Americans.
7. America’s economy is based on capitalism.
6. America’s government is based on freedom and personal liberties.
5. Historically, Americans don’t like to be told what to do, especially by the government.
4. Americans don’t like the government meddling in their lives under mandates disguised as ones that are “for their own good.”
3. Americans can think for themselves.
2. A virus can’t take away our freedom unless aided by an oppressive government.
1. A virus can’t conquer capitalism unless aided by an oppressive government.
I’m not telling anyone to do anything.
Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask.
Stay at home. Don’t stay at home.
Send your kids to school. Have your kids educated by virtual learning.
All are options.
It’s your call.
But when someone in my business stops siding with the personal liberties that make our profession even possible,
It seems Mail readers are objecting, too, based on the many online comments I read Friday afternoon.
As they have the right to do.
I’ll be the first to say that columns and editorials are about telling people what to do. I’m guilty as charged.
However, those opinion pieces should reflect the views of their community, not the high-minded rhetoric of urban elites.
Readers will follow a newspaper’s advice if they feel the person giving it is fair and objective.
But a tongue lashing often falls on deaf ears when the suggestions aren’t representative of their community.
Dan Wehmer is the Citizen’s editor, publisher and owner. He can be reached at 417-935-2257 or via e-mail at email@example.com.