Editorial: Controversy over statements about Black Lives Matter

Local residents add chalk drawings to the La Jolla Bike Path in support of the Black Lives Matter movement Sept. 27.
A group of residents added chalk drawings to the La Jolla Bike Path on Sept. 27 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

We can all agree that we are fortunate to live and work in La Jolla, with its stunning coastline, renowned scientific and cultural institutions, good weather, good restaurants and good neighbors. But like most communities, we don’t always agree on issues — including those issues that so divide our nation.

The Oct. 8 edition of the La Jolla Light contained a letter to the editor and some comments made at a public meeting of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board that expressed strongly worded opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and to recent chalk drawings on the La Jolla Bike Path that supported the movement.

Those statements have generated several complaints from people in the community who were angry not only at the comments but also at the Light for publishing them.

Though we can certainly understand how an opinion can cause anger, a newspaper such as the Light has a responsibility to report all viewpoints on issues of the day, even those that many people may find wrong or even offensive.

As the note under the letters to the editor in each issue says, “Letters reflect the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher.” In fact, that goes for every opinion expressed in the entire paper.

It may be difficult to separate the people at the Light from our profession and thus believe we’re endorsing everything we publish. But in fact, that separation of person from profession is something we have to do every day. Our role in the community is not to publish only the opinions we personally approve of or the ones we think the majority of readers share, and thus take it on ourselves to pick the winners and losers in debates about issues. Our role is to give readers enough information to pick the winners and losers themselves, and we don’t serve them well by not exposing them to the breadth of community opinions on subjects, or ignoring that there are conflicting viewpoints.

Many of the letters and news stories we have published about the Blacks Lives Matter movement have contained complimentary opinions about it. Some have contained opinions that are not complimentary.

The letters section, as the note says, is a “public forum,” a setting in which people who may not be in a public position have a place to state their opinion — even if we may personally disagree with it and realize many others will as well.

We also believe it serves our readers to report what people in public positions have to say about matters affecting the community, particularly in a public meeting.

At the same time, we treasure our readers, and it’s never our goal for you to be upset.

It gives us no pleasure to report on this sort of division. But as a newspaper, reporting is what we have to do. ◆