In the past few days, many Times Free Press readers have expressed fear that the newspaper is abandoning its conservative editorial page.
We have no such plans. At all. We will continue to publish the Free Press page, with its long-held commitment to conservative opinion, next to the Times page, with its tradition of left-leaning opinion.
Many readers took the firing of Free Press editor Drew Johnson on Aug. 1 as a sign that the newspaper is "turning left," as one reader stated, and would not publish any conservative opinions. Editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett and Times page editor Pam Sohn still are producing content for their liberal page while Johnson is gone, another reader said.
True. But the paper is conducting a search for a Free Press editor and, in the interim, will continue to publish conservative opinion. We are committed to finding an opinion writer who will write local editorials from a right-side viewpoint.
The Free Press and Times pages make this newspaper unique; most American newspapers only have one editorial page, reflecting one viewpoint. Our two pages honor the legacies of the two papers that merged here in 1999 to form the Times Free Press. They also served readers on both sides of the political aisle.
But the removal of Johnson angered many readers, who said the move proves that the paper is not committed to serving its red-state readers.
Ironically, in the past year, the No. 1 complaint from readers who called to talk about the paper - on any subject or about any story - is that the Free Press page was not conservative enough. Some readers were turned off by the page's support of gay marriage and polygamy and legalized prostitution and marijuana. Sometimes, regular readers of the Times page agreed more with the right-side views than regular readers of the Free Press page. On many days, however, the page trumpeted conservative beliefs about limited government and the free market.
The Free Press has a history dating to 1933, and its opinion page built a reputation over the decades as a reliably conservative voice. Eighty years later, it's important to many of our readers that tradition continue. They've asked that that page remain a loud and unwavering conservative voice.
We promise to keep that tradition alive.
Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.