May 29, 2019
The conversation about the stained-glass windows of leaders within the conservative resurgence continues to surface among Baptists and others.
Sometimes the focus is on supporters being upset about the recent removal of those windows from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; other times it is astonishment that such windows ever existed.
A good bit of discussion and plenty of opinions on the topic have been shared on various social media platforms, but The Alabama Baptist has only received one actual letter to the editor about the windows (a letter we ran in the May 2 issue).
I’ll admit I have been surprised no one wrote to counter the defense of the windows noted by the recent letter writer.
But I was more surprised to learn that some readers assumed TAB had publicly announced an opinion on the matter because the submitted letter was published in the paper. Because the letter was published TAB staff must agree, the argument went.
The assumption confused me because the letter was clearly marked “Letter to the Editor” and was on the “Opinion” spread in the paper.
Traditionally what happens when a letter to the editor is printed in a newspaper or magazine is other readers who have differing opinions write a response and send it along to the editor as well.
The response is typically published and then some back and forth is allowed until nothing new is being presented in the discussion.
The point of a letters to the editor section is not to express the opinion of the media outlet but to allow readers with varying viewpoints to explain their stance on the issue without name calling or mean-spirited attacks. To do this fairly means allowing subscribers and readers of the publication to share their true personal opinions.
So how was the recent letter assumed as TAB’s official opinion by some?
Likely because of the retweet and emoji-response culture for opinions posted on social media. How could I have missed that? It makes perfect sense.
Because so many intense discussions are now happening at warp speed on Twitter and Facebook people are agreeing or disagreeing instantaneously and passing the agreement or disagreement along immediately with an emoji-response, retweet or sharing of the post.
For those participating in or at least observing these cyber conversations the concept of retweeting would naturally flow over into an opinion piece being printed in a publication.
Retweeting someone’s comments on Twitter without offering a differing opinion indicates support or agreement. If we follow the same line of thinking then comments printed in TAB without a contradiction noted could be seen as support or agreement even on the “Opinion” page.
What this means for letters to the editor going forward I’m not quite sure yet, but it definitely has me considering ways to ensure both sides of issues are always presented together.