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GENERATIONS: Art Lee: Hurrah for newspapers and coffee

Few things in life can be better to then to start a new day with a cup of coffee in one hand and the daily newspaper in the other. Ahhhh, the good life!

Art LeeHowever, of course, that sentence is editorializing and thus can be perceived as only a matter of personal opinion -- even when that opinion is shared by millions of newspaper readers and coffee slurpers. Anyway, I think it's true and offer a big “Hurrah” for both newspapers and coffee (Alright, substitute tea if you must.)

Location guides the features

Snowbirds (like myself now visiting Tucson, Ariz.) got so used to certain newspapers back home in Minnesota that it was easy to believe that daily papers are all alike wherever you end up. Are newspapers in Arizona comparable to Minnesota? Nope. Not so. Naive to think that way.  Newspapers are not all alike. The getting-used-to a new daily newspaper takes a while and is an education in itself. So it was in starting to read the Arizona Daily Star.

Geography plays a role in reporting, of course, wherever one lives. For example, there's no pictures in the Star of lucky fishermen holding up a photo of a string of big walleyes, nor a shot of a young happy exuberant kid with his first-caught bluegill. Nope, instead, here in southern Arizona there are pictures of roving bobcats and on rare occasion even a shot of a lone mountain lion sneaking into the outskirts of the city at dawn; and strangely for us "foreigners," we wandering Northern snowbirds, there's pics of scary wild pigs entering the city at daybreak and tipping over garbage cans in some dark alley and dining on the leftovers. A bit unusual.   (Wild pigs is not a major topic in The Bemidji Pioneer.)

Any photo shots here of pine tree forests? Nope. Cacti “forests”? Yup. Mountain scenes in Beltrami County? No. No mountains. But in Tucson, yes, with the whole region surrounded by mountains on all sides of the stretched-out city. Minnesota is sure geologically different. That's especially noted if you're from Norway and arrive in Minnesota for the first time. (I recall picking up at the Minneapolis airport a guest from Norway who said with disbelief in her voice at least a dozen times after our driving north only 50 miles: "But it’s so flat!" -- that repeated assertion followed by her mumblings about "the land looks like a table top. Boring.")

And then there's daily news in the Star about a foreign country only 62 miles south of Tucson; it's called Mexico. The recent photos of the lengthy extended concertina rolls of barbed- razor-wire placed/strung out at the point of entry into the city of Nogales, Mexico, is unnerving picture that made it in many American newspapers -- along with the reported  angry cries of protest from the angry Nogales mayor who shouted to "get those (expletive) things outta here! This ain't some war zone." But the lengthy rolls of concertina wire sure looks like wartime. Thousands of people in southern Arizona live on the Mexican border as part of their daily existence. It's a daily subject in the Star. And daily too is “The Wall” issue. It looks like "The Wall question will never be settled soon, if at all. So says the Star.

Citizens have their say

There are two editorial pages in the Star (as there are in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis), but the Star almost daily has one entire page that features only letters-to-the-editor (always a dozen  -- sometimes 20 or more -- letters printed each day), hence plenty of opportunities for folks to voice their multi-varied opinions. Again, the location of the writers' homes indicate there are always daily letters pertaining to The Wall and to President Trump. Those two topics seem to supply the heat-for-the-day, too, with not much room for compromise, hence Trump in the Star pages' letters is hated or loved, as the competing letters themselves indicate. Samples: "Trump is a scary ignoramus madly in love with one person only, himself."  Or "Our country's low unemployment figures reveal Trump's greatness."

Although not in the editorial pages, there's also a full page of opinion after any major speech given by the president, but the printed reaction to his speech is done differently. First are quoted the lines that Trump said, and then underneath them are the editors' opinions who judge whether his quoted lines are true or false and/or lies or a combination of both.

Whatever, the Star editors seem to make doubly sure that their paper is not openly taking sides as to political-party choices and philosophies, and the editors also make deliberate attempts to balance outside opinionated writers, e.g. political columnists George Will's commentaries (dictionary needed for his anti-Trump prose), contrasted with the conservative pro-Trump columns of Cal Thomas (pre-reading Adam Smith suggested). Where does the Pioneer stand on these two writers? Where should they stand? Well, it depends…

Conclusion for all the curious news-junkies: Read both of them -- and others, too. After all, there are two (maybe four) sides to every question.

Art Lee is a retired BSU professor.