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There are ground rules in voicing opinions

Freedom of speech is a great action that is guaranteed to all United States citizens by our Constitution. It’s a basic right. Each citizen is free to state his or her opinion on a street corner, a soapbox in the park, a stage in front of thousands or one-on-one in debate. We strongly support that. Some in our nation view this premise as offensive, especially when it differs with their fixed agendas.

Bridling free speech is never the intent of this newspaper. However, there are thresholds of decency. For example, a recent comment made on the Dispatch’s Vox Pop site seemed inappropriate to our new media director.

The author of the message posted a suggestion that political candidates vying for their party’s endorsement for the Minnesota Senate settle the endorsement process by kicking one another in the groin area until one dropped. That was deemed out of the bounds by our new media director. The director pulled that message from the Vox Pop site. He also banned the author of the message from participating in further exchanges. The person that authored the Vox Pop message has a right to appeal for reinstatement.

While we advocate and support a person’s right to free speech as it is guaranteed to us by our Constitution, we do request that participants in Vox Pop and Open Forum state his or her ideas in a manner that is appropriate for the general public to view. Let’s face it, our kids are more apt to view online comments than we adults. Suggesting or advocating in any way a potentially harmful action is out of line.

We want all discourse at the Dispatch to be decent. We will publish letters and messages on Vox Pop that disagree with Dispatch staff (especially editorial writers), politicians or government employees as long as the messages are not slanderous, libelous or based on falsehoods or opinion that has no substance in fact. Bottom line, keep it clean and have fun exchanging ideas.

Whether one is liberal, conservative, a 99er, a Tea Party member or a Libertarian, this newspaper is the place to exchange points of view.

As the new guy in the editorial department of the Dispatch, I have been impressed with the volume of letters in Open Forum. Our readers are utilizing this venue to speak out. I encourage that. Everyone has a voice in the Dispatch or on the paper’s website via Vox Pop. If our readers and followers of Vox Pop continue to submit more letters and comments for publication or posting our Editorial Advisory Board is considering adding another page to the Commentary section of the Dispatch to handle the volume of submissions.

Thanks for your input.

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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