Statement of full disclosure

A 2007

January 07, 2007|by BOB MAGINNIS

Every year columnist Charley Reese writes at least one column explaining who he is and what motivates him. Publisher John League has encouraged me to do the same, so here goes.

I am a 57-year-old married man with two grown sons who has been at The Herald-Mail, in a variety of jobs, for the past 33 years. I've been editorial page editor - under three different publishers - since 1985.

The older I get, the more conservative I become. Perhaps that's because over the years I've gotten to know so many businesspeople who've had to put up with government regulations that make little or no sense.

For example, some orchards in this area went out of business after the government made it increasingly difficult to hire the foreign workers who did the grunt work of picking fruit that Americans didn't want to do.


Faced with a government agency with an endless supply of funds to fight them, the orchardists quit the business. In some places, their trees still sit, untrimmed, producing a crop of tiny apples each year that fall to the ground and rot.

On the other hand, the most recent brand of conservatism is equally distasteful, because it took its cue from the stock market and did what was good for its favorite constituents in the short term and ignored the long-term consequences.

I am a Democrat because I lived through the Watergate era, when a Republican president decided that he could pick and choose which laws to obey.

But I am not a "yellow dog" Democrat who backs the party unquestionly. I couldn't wait for Bill Clinton to leave, after he squandered the last years of his presidency because he couldn't control his sexual urges. Because of his rapport with black leaders, Clinton had a chance to improve race relations in this country, but his libido tripped him up.

He may be a discredited voice now, but I agree with Dan Rather that race is the most important issue in America. Does anyone believe that an influx of British or Australians would have caused the same concern over immigration as the Hispanic or Middle Eastern heritage of many recent newcomers?

I am puzzled by the stubborn unwillingness of many local leaders to look at, or accept, ideas that didn't originate in this community.

Other areas have dealt with the issue of so-called workforce housing in a variety of ways, but this county really has not. And how long did it take for local leaders to acknowledge that downtown Hagerstown's problems were caused in large part by the fact that most of those who live there have little disposable income?

At the same time, I respect many of our local elected officials, because they are working hard to deal with the problems of 2007 with a governmental system that is not much different, with the exception of administrators, than those of 30 years ago. Most work hard, some for pay that amounts to cab fare, and don't get much thanks from the public.

I am a member of the Hagerstown Exchange Club, whose principal charity is The Parent-Child Center, an agency that works to prevent child abuse by teaching young parents how to discipline their children without resorting to physical or mental abuse.

I have also worked with the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County to try to promote understanding between those of different faiths. Our best moment was the day when we all worked together on a Habitat for Humanity House in Boonsboro. More such days are needed, because only when you work together as a group do you begin to see beyond the labels.

Many don't believe it, but my personal feelings have little to do with which reader letters run - or in what order. If I were excluding all letters by, for example, evangelical Christians, then they would complain to the publisher.

There would be a meeting, or maybe a few, and the time I could have spent doing real work would be taken up exploring why I was offending these readers needlessly. My goal is to have a logical reason if a letter doesn't run in a timely fashion.

It could be that it's too long - a recent submission topped 1,500 words - or it could present legal problems. For example, I'm sorry that Buddy's Auto Emporium ripped you off on that used car, but just because you tell us that in a letter doesn't mean we can publish it. If we did and it turned out not to be true, ol' Buddy could sue you and us for lost business.

On editorial cartoons, I try to balance the abuse given to both parties and I would rather run something funny than some crude attack on one official or another. It is an odd task, because while no one assumes that I agree with Allan Powell just because I print one of his columns, many readers assume the paper agrees with all of the editorial cartoons it prints.

My son is a teacher in the Washington County Public Schools and a part-time employee of the Washington County Arts Council. I disclosed that in a column when he was hired and he and I have agreed that he will not give me tips and I will not ask him to be a source.

After all these years, I still enjoy the business, or most parts of it. I have learned that if you listen patiently, almost everyone has an interesting story just waiting to be told.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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