My friend Jon Easter has come to Erika Smith's defense in reference to her numerous columns in support of mass transit. Smith, a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, has published nearly a dozen columns in this calendar year in support of mass transit. Most of her anti-transit critics have attacked her for having an opinion that supports mass transit, but Jon defends it, saying that her job as a columnist is to have an opinion and she's hardly the only columnist to have a pet issue.
I agree with Jon. Erika Smith should write about what she wants. I don't particularly enjoy Smith's style of writing, but it is by no means bad. I just don't enjoy it. Not my cup of tea.
But the problem isn't with Smith. She's staked out an issue and essentially made it her own. The problem rests with the Star as a whole, particularly the overall organization of their editorial pages and columnists.
I am by no means saying the Star needs to go out and find people to argue against mass transit. I don't personally believe that newspapers need to be "balanced" in their editorial pages, that for every pro [whatever issue] column there must be an anti [whatever issue] to balance it out. That cheapens discourse and presents the image that two views are equally valid, and that isn't always the case.
But I do believe in diversity of topics. So when you have one writer focusing on one topic over multiple columns in a short period of time, maybe you don't need several columns from the editorial board echoing pretty much the same sentiments. Encourage other columnists to do other topics, or at least take a different look on the topic.
Journalists of all stripes need to ask themselves who, what, where, when, and why. But a journalism professor I once had liked to expand on the "why" part and add in "Why should I care?". Even the most passionate transit-advocates may eventually get tired of the umpteenth pro-mass transit column that says roughly the same thing as the last pro-mass transit column. It certainly is a major issue. But there are other issues going on that deserve some attention as well. With mass transit seemingly dead for now, hopefully Star readers can expect some new topics soon on the editorial pages.