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Last week, I received a phone call from an angry reader.
It was my mom.
If you ask her, she’ll probably tell you she wasn’t angry.
But, she was.
She was practically yelling at me. Of course, if you ask her, she was talking in a “normal” tone.
But, she wasn’t.
She was ticked.
Well, thankfully, it wasn’t anything I did or said.
She was angry about something that was published on our op-ed page last week - a guest column written by Donna Kapfhammer, a former reporter for The Lebanon Enterprise.
Kapfammer emailed me in October and said she had just read Jim Higdon’s book “Cornbread Mafia” and asked if I would be interested in publishing a story about her experiences while living and working here.
“Sure, I’d be interested in printing something,” I replied via email. “Would you be interested in writing a column about your experiences?”
Yes, she said she would be interested in writing a guest column and thanked me for the opportunity. When she emailed me her guest column, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t what I expected. I thought several of her comments would probably rub some people the wrong way.
And, I was right.
Some of Kapfhammer’s comments offended my mom (and countless others, I’m sure).
My mom didn’t understand why I would allow her column to be printed in the newspaper.
“Did you read her column before you published it?” my mom asked.
Of course I read her column.
And, it was obvious from her column that her opinion of Lebanon wasn’t necessarily a favorable one. But, just because her comments might anger some readers didn’t give me the right to refuse to publish it.
Actually, that’s not true. I take that back.
I could have refused to publish it.
But, we are a community newspaper and we give our readers the opportunity to publish their opinions in print. In fact, we welcome it. So, who am I to pick and choose who gets to express their opinions in the newspaper? As long as the writer doesn’t make slanderous, libelous or defamatory comments, they have a right to express their opinion on our op-ed page.
Believe me, there have been times during the past 11 years that I’ve wanted to refuse specific opinion pieces that were submitted to the paper, especially ones that insulted me. But, I didn’t. Why? Because those people have a right to their opinions just like I do. And, just because I don’t like their opinion doesn’t mean I have the right to refuse to publish it. If I did refuse to publish opinions that might anger someone or hurt someone’s feelings, well, we might as well not have an opinion page at all. Because, as I quickly learned when I started working at the Enterprise, it doesn’t matter what you write, there is always a chance you might offend someone for one reason or another. Heck, I wrote a column about my love for Diet Mountain Dew years ago that offended someone.
Honestly, I’m not sure Kaphfammer realized how her comments might be interpreted by some of our readers. In fact, I know she didn’t realize it because she called me Friday morning to apologize to me. She explained that she never intended on offending anyone. In fact, she wanted to respond to the criticism she's received in print:
Response from Donna:
I feel compelled to respond to the comments about my experiences in Lebanon. The column contained my observations and were not meant to be criticisms. For heavens sake, that was 36 years ago.
My life's experiences have taught me that all convicted felons are not bad people.
Fact: One of the best, loyal, responsible employees I ever hired was a convicted murderer.
Living there was a great learning experience about the Lebanonese culture. Women were in charge of household duties and men worked outside the home acting as the provider.
Fact: Raising a family is one of the most difficult jobs in life.
Physical attributes do not define an individual.
Fact: A person's height and build does not mean they are not attractive.
The questions about religion were not considered offensive.
Fact: My mother was Catholic and my father was Methodist. I attended both churches.
Finally, the criminal history in Marion County has lasted hundreds of years. I have learned that adversity should be used as a learning tool. Time will heal hearts and reputations.
On a completely unrelated note, I hope I’m still invited to Thanksgiving dinner, mom.