At the time this nation was founded it was common for the colonial government to jail printers who dared to publish ideas that opposed official policy. It was called sedition.
To prevent that from happening in the newly formed United States of America, the First Amendment in the Constitution's Bill of Rights guaranteed a free press. That guarantee extends only to the owner of the press. As a matter of policy and out of a sense of civic duty, The Maui News opens its pages to readers in the form of letters to the editor.
The "Letters" section is a public forum, a chance for individuals to express opinions, sometimes buttressed with facts and other times by supposition, extrapolation and imagination. The policy at The Maui News is to run as many letters from as many readers as possible, editing them for readability, length and civility. While it's appropriate to attack an idea, it is not appropriate to attack the person promoting that idea.
While often entertaining, the letters also offer a window into the community with readers sometimes acting as reporters and observers of events. Judging from the reaction, these reports are read avidly by county and state officials. The letters can be used to rally community support for a cause, and also to react to the way The Maui News reports events and issues in the news columns.
Readers are also free to respond to the opinions expressed in local editorials such as this one. In fact, a major goal of local editorials - traditionally reflecting the opinions of the publisher - is to stimulate public debate through thoughtful analysis of current, local events.
While taking full responsibility for its news reports, The Maui News does not endorse or attempt to promote any particular agenda through the "Letters" section. The opinions expressed are those of the letter writers.
Civil discourse is necessary for a fully functioning democratic society. Writing a letter to the editor is one way to take part in that discourse. It is up to the reader to decide the value of the ideas and observations presented. And, remember the heading at the top of the page: "Opinion."
(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.