Blame the author

Friday, February 6, 2009

Last week, we lost an American literary legend, John Updike. At age 76, he was considered one of our country's most prolific writers. Like all of us who put ourselves in print for others to read, Updike was not immune to considerable and sometimes vicious criticism. On behalf of Mr. Updike, and all writers I applaud each and everyone of you.

Many of you have never read John Updike. He wrote almost every type of script there was. He wrote poems, novels, essays, and regular articles in the "New Yorker" Magazine. His best works were considered to be his countless short stories, for which he had no peer. One of his books became a famous movie from a few years ago, "The Witches of Eastwick."

Updike wrote so easily and with such style, that many criticized his work. He sort of reminded me of Tiger Woods.

He made writing seem effortless just as Tiger does playing golf. That is not a reason to critique, rather it should be grounds for praise.

Writers throughout time have been the focal point of never ending analysis. I compare it to back seat driving. Ask yourself these questions: "Have you ever been riding in a car with another person at the wheel, who you know is a fairly good driver? Do you find yourself second guessing their skills? Do you think to yourself, I would drive better than that if I was at the wheel?" If you answered anything but yes, you are not being honest with yourself.

The same is true for the writer, with one major difference.

Most people find fault with our ideas or stories, just as they would with our driving. The difference is that most of them never write for public viewing their very personal thoughts and ideas. Well that is the crux of the issue. It takes courage to put your work out there. Few have that courage, many however, have the unceasing bravery to find fault.

Each week in our paper, I read the works of my fellow columnists. I may not always agree with them, but I read them. To read only what you like or agree with is narrow minded at best.

Hardly a week goes by, that I don't hear from someone who gives me either praise or advice about the words I have written in a recent article. It is more often than not good feedback. I suspect that they voice their criticisms to others instead of me personally. I think that because, I hear many more criticisms regarding my fellow writers. I will use just one example. Someone will come up to me and say, "I really like your articles, but I don't like those of Charles Nash. I don't understand why they let him write that stuff in the paper."

The reason is simple. Charles Nash is a good writer. He writes from his heart and soul just like we all do. Charles would tell you that he is of course writing from his own viewpoint of a liberal slant. On our paper, we have many views.

If you asked Steve Moyer, he would proudly tell you he is a proud conservative. He and Charles are often at opposite ends of the political and social spectrums. That is why our paper is interesting and worth the time to read. We don't just give you one point of view.

Some of our writers are just good reads each week. They are more interested in providing information or simple enjoyment. Carolyn Thornton writes about everyday things in her life and her family. Leonard Ernsbarger is what I call our promoter. If there is a good cause out there, Leonard will be front and center leading the cheers.

Recently, our paper has come under attack for its coverage of the actions of the city government of Nevada. We have been accused of being biased and unfair. I disagree with those ideas totally and completely.

The premise of the arguments against our paper are basically as follows. We are persecuting these good and faithful public servants. They have volunteered their time and efforts to give us good government. We should be praising them, not criticizing their actions.

I could write ten articles about the problems I see in our city government, but here are just a few that make the continued coverage by our paper necessary, not persecutorial in nature.

Water rates and parks and recreation sales tax funds are key issues that need constant scrutiny. The budget process for our city government has proven more than once, that funds are moved regularly from one area to another. This is a dangerous practice and needs watching.

The budget itself is a major issue. The paper reported that several council members stated publicly that they were not comfortable in the rush to complete the last budget.

Why was there such a rush? The city has on more than one occasion operated on a previous years budget until all the kinks were worked out of the proposed one.

To the council members who feel you are being unfairly treated, we welcome your input. If you wish to talk to any of us, I would love to hear your side of the issues. But do not feel that we the writers, are ever going to stop looking closely at what you do as council members. It is our job and our duty.

Like John Updike, I am proud, and I am sure all of our staff are proud to be members of the writing profession. Unlike many politicians, it seems we have thicker skins. We put ourselves out there every week to be criticized.

A word of caution to politicians who complain about the press. As Shakespeare once said, "me thinks the lady doth protest too much!"