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The reason government can’t refuse to register controversial trademarks is the same reason you can believe us when we say The Wilson Times is nonpartisan.
Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito explained in June 2017 that approving a trademark application can’t be seen as an endorsement of a product or service — after all, how could the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plausibly endorse both Coke and Pepsi?
“(I)f trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently,” Alito wrote.
The 8-0 decision (Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate) affirmed the right of Asian rock band The Slants to reclaim a racial slur in its now-trademarked name.
Registering a unique service mark isn’t the same as agreeing with it, and neither is printing an opinion piece in a newspaper.
When you read a column in the Times that makes your blood boil, the presence of a counterpoint on the same or facing page — or in a subsequent edition — should be all the evidence you need that we aren’t endorsing the writer’s views.
If we present both sides of an issue, we can’t be seen as taking sides. Yet I’ve fielded complaints from readers who cite a column they’ve seen here as proof-positive that the Times is either a liberal lapdog or a conservative clearinghouse.
Our mission is to publish a diverse range of viewpoints. To continue the soda metaphor, we’ll serve Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Cheerwine, Sprite, Mountain Dew and Faygo. Which beverage you choose is up to you.
Columnists speak only for themselves. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of The Wilson Times or any of its employees or advertisers. Likewise, cartoons represent only the opinions of their illustrators.
The only place the newspaper expresses an institutional viewpoint is in unsigned editorials published under the “Our Opinion” label.
We don’t have a partisan editorial philosophy — we call ’em like we see ’em. Our guiding principles are adherence to the Constitution, with a particular affinity for the First Amendment, and an abiding interest in the civic and economic health of Wilson County, its public and private institutions and the people who call it home.
Since we present a broad range of perspectives, the Times’ opinion pages can be an equal-opportunity offender. Some columns may confound conservatives, and others might make liberals livid.
While we welcome feedback and I’ll always take your calls, we don’t cancel columns merely because some readers disagree with them. When speech gives offense, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
In that spirit, we encourage letters to the editor critiquing the columns, editorials and even the other letters that appear on our pages. Email your letter of 350 words or fewer to email@example.com.
If you’re wondering why some community members have a column in the Times and others don’t, the answer may be simpler than you think — they took the initiative to ask. We don’t recruit or solicit opinion columnists, as that could be seen as putting our thumb on the scale, but if you have an idea for a regular column and a willingness to write it, I’m all ears.
I can’t promise you’ll agree with everything you see on the Opinion and Commentary pages, but I can guarantee we’ll give both sides a fair hearing — and even feature some writers who fall outside of the traditional left-right paradigm.
The Times’ goal is to stimulate community conversations and provide an open forum for the free exchange of ideas. If you learn a new fact, gain a better understanding of an issue or refine and sharpen your argument by considering an opposing view, we’ve done our job that day.
Corey Friedman is editor of The Wilson Times and executive editor of Restoration NewsMedia. Reach him at 252-265-7813 and firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @coreywrites. This primer was adapted from a column originally published in October 2017.