On Censorship and Responsible Journalism
(Oregon Planners' Journal, April 1997)
By Richard Carson
In the last issue, I printed a letter from the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland that urged this editor to "stop contributing to rumors and misplaced assumptions." Since then, Mitch [Rohse] wrote a letter to the Oregon Chapter's Board requesting that the "APA's Executive Board should take steps to exert some control over the quality and editorial views of our newsletter." However, my conclusion is that I am doing a great job as your Journal's editor in addressing today's issues. Both the Journal's readers and the Journal's advertisers have steadily increased during my editorship. Also, as you will see in the two letters to the Editor on page four, there are always at least two views on every issue. Invariably some planners will agree with me, while others will not.
Mitch Rohse said he was "deeply offended" by my editorial titled "Is It Time to Reinvent Statewide Land Use Planning?" This is understandable since Mitch is the Communications Manager for the Department of Land Conservation and Development. He then asked the board to reign me in.
The Board discussed this request, and I am glad to say they continue to support the Managing Editor. Three decisions were made. First, President Kenn Battaile agreed to write about the board's general conclusions in his column -- which is printed to your left. Second, I agreed to print Mitch's letter in this edition of the Journal -- I would have anyway. Third, I volunteered to run a statement saying my commentary is mine and mine alone. You'll see this at the top of every column from now on.
I was asked by one board member if it would be a good idea to submit my editorials to an editorial board. My answer is a simple "NO." Why? Because this Journal is - in the end -- yours. I will censor no one and no one will censor me.
This year I turn 50 years old--that's a half a century of living. I have been writing political commentary for such publications as The Oregonian, Business Journal and Oregon Business magazine for over a decade. And I will be very blunt about the fact that I like this job. It pays nothing, but it has a great reward. It allows a few planners -- those who are willing to speak their minds and write about their beliefs -- a place to take a stand. I exist for these few. If we open the doors of government (and hopefully our ears) to those who want to speak, then we may learn something of value.
I also will not change my "style" of writing. Writers need a certain amount of ego to believe that anyone would want to read their words. In my case it is both my heritage and my legacy. My grandfather was a writer and now my oldest daughter is a writer. That's three generations of Carsons who believe in the importance of the written word and in expressing an opinion.
Richard Carson is Director of Oregon City's Community Development Department.