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Communicate differences with civility, build bridges

As an outsider to the Brainerd lakes area, I have experienced a number of reactions to my opinions during the 10 months that I have been with the Dispatch.

Many readers chose to take me to task without engaging in personal attacks. Some chose to make it personal calling for my removal and advocating going back to the way it was before I was hired. A few even supported the positions I chose to take in writing my opinions that appeared in this spot throughout 2012.

However, in recalling one of the earliest comments that I stated was not to agree or disagree, but to engage in discussions with civility. Some folks took the suggestion to heart. Others totally rejected the idea claiming that I was (am) a right-wing extremist. One suggested that I should work for Fox News. (I’m still waiting for a call from Fox and I told our newsroom assistant to put them right through when it comes.)

To agree or disagree with my opinion or anyone else’s published in the Dispatch is not the point. The point is to engage in stating our opinions and our differences in a tone that does not leave anyone diminished simply because one’s political viewpoint differs from another individuals values.

Case in point: On Dec. 3 the Dispatch published a letter from a reader stated: “I personally don’t need to see continued ultra-right wing (go ahead, look it up) elitism promoted by the Dispatch.” The writer went on to say, “Keep Keith Hansen as the vice president of whatever you want him to preside over. Just keep him off the editorial staff. We deserve better. Kinda miss Roy Miller’s spin.”

That’s the part everyone is aware of. The letter writer stopped by Tuesday and asked to speak with me.

What happened next was totally unexpected. The letter writer was in my office to apologize. It took a lot of guts to confront someone with whom he disagrees. He was a gentleman. We chatted for about a half hour and he departed a friend. I respect that man for his kindness. Honestly, it’s one of the first times in over 30 years that I have had such an experience.

Now, the rest of the story. He informed me that he had received unsigned threatening letters. That’s not what is needed. I appreciate those who support my efforts to express a different point of view than Dispatch readers were accustomed to, but I hope those threatening letters will stop. Let’s have discourse.

I respect everyone’s right to state his or her opinion. Please respect the opinions of all Dispatch readers.

Merry Christmas!

Keith Hansen

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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