An honor and a challenge

An honor and a challenge

July 1st, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Drew Johnson has been named opinion editor for the Free Press editorial page.

Drew Johnson has been named opinion editor for...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Since the Times Free Press announced that I would serve as the new editor of the Free Press opinion page, the number of people who have reached out with their congratulations and well wishes has warmed my heart. I am sincerely grateful for the kindness of this community.

It is no secret that I am following a local legend and a giant in the newspaper industry. Lee Anderson left an indelible mark on this region, and the significance and the success of the Free Press opinion page is largely a reflection of his passion, energy and insight. It is an honor to carry forth Lee's tradition.

That's not to say that this page won't look a little different. After all, when Lee was born, Calvin Coolidge was president and it cost two cents to mail a letter. When I was born Jimmy Carter was president, and by the time I was in high school, I sent emails rather than letters. Naturally, we have distinctive opinions and care about different issues.

While I am an East Tennessee native, I'm not from Chattanooga. There is no Maclellan or Lupton in my family tree. The closest I've ever come to Coca-Cola stock was refilling the soda shelves at Food Lion as a teen. I don't play golf with members of the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners. I don't have cookouts with Hamilton County school board members. Because I am not beholden to friendships or feelings, there will be no sacred cows on the Free Press opinion page.

Being an outsider allows me to approach local issues with honesty and objectivity that, I hope, will both ruffle feathers and be a breath of fresh air.

Going forward, this page will be guided by one core principal: People should be given as much liberty as possible to make decisions for themselves and their families. As a result, the contents of this page generally will reflect tenets of limited government and personal responsibility. This means that politicians won't be given a pass just because they have an "R" next to their names, and policies won't be advocated just because they are considered conservative. Likewise, this page will applaud individuals and ideas that advance liberty, reduce the size and scope of government and uphold the Constitution.

From my days as the founder and president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (now the Beacon Center of Tennessee), I am known for mixing public policy, investigative journalism and punditry. The Free Press opinion page will reflect that same approach in order to expose the problems of the region and, hopefully, recommend useful solutions.

My vision for this page puts a premium on holding public officials accountable and exposing and criticizing abuses of power, corruption, incompetence, wasted tax dollars, bad public policy and sheer stupidity -- and there is plenty of all that on all levels of government to keep me busy for a long, long time. It won't be all name-calling and negativity, however. I look forward to celebrating the many successes of the region and sharing the stories of people who make this area a better place.

I will strive to expand the conversation beyond the printed page. My Twitter account -- @Drews_Views -- will feature the Free Press page's observations on breaking news stories. I also will engage with readers in the comments section online and on the Times Free Press' Facebook page.

Serving as the editor for one of the largest conservative/free market opinion pages in America is an honor. Having to defend those principles with a first-rate liberal opinion page in the same newspaper is an exciting challenge. I look forward to debating the Times about the pressing issues of the day, and also in serious discussions about the proper role of government in the lives of the people it serves. There are few questions more fundamental to a free society.

I have long admired Chattanooga from afar, and I couldn't be more excited about putting roots down and becoming an active member of the community -- a controversial, infuriating, divisive, subversive member of the community.

Please introduce yourself if you see me out, feel free to invite me to speak at civic groups and community organizations, write letters to the editor and comment on Free Press editorials. I look forward to interacting with as many Times Free Press readers as possible.

It's a great privilege to write for the readers of this community and represent the voice of a vibrant, passionate ideology.

-- Drew Johnson