On Tuesday 3 January — apparently in response to a hail of letters accusing the paper of editorial bias — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a full-page editorial attempting to justify their approach to opinion pieces. I responded as follows:
In last Tuesday’s defense of your paper’s opinion pages, you claim that your reporting is free from editorial influence. Many would dispute this point, but I wish to address a more objectionable assertion in your argument.
You write: “Where you will absolutely find bias is on the opinion pages.” This remark is as astonishing as it is disconcerting.
Bias and opinion are not synonyms. Bias is by definition emotional, often to the point of irrational. Opinion expresses a principled position, ideally based on accurate information and sound reasoning.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously observed that you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. A responsible news organization, however, is duty bound to make sure that its opinion pieces are fact-based and logically developed. This requires an understanding of both sides of an issue and the commitment to intellectual integrity. Only then is an opinion deserving of publication.