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Local opinion columnists

Does anger drive op-ed readership?

By From page A8 | February 05, 2013

I was amazed at the number of observers, both professional and amateur, who were certain the San Francisco 49ers would win the Super Bowl.

I was an agnostic, as I usually am about the stock market, elections and most sporting events. I admit, when it comes to politics, I can get worked up and learn to really dislike certain officials. But, if you’re a regular reader of this and other newspapers, you’ll notice that most of us who have the privilege of writing a column use shades of gray to express their opinions. When I first was given the privilege of writing for the Daily Republic, I often used anger that, when I read some of these columns years later, embarrassed me.

Don’t get me wrong. Over the years there have been some very tempting targets for rude commentary. I’m talking about right here in Fairfield. That seems to have changed for the better in recent years. In terms of the national picture, yes, I get very aggravated by the tax increases that are driven by President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats. I also think that the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense was an insult to the men and women in uniform and – perhaps – a danger to our ability to defend our interests.

As for John Kerry as secretary of state, here we have a man who, during the Vietnam war, used every insult he could think of to describe our efforts. He was more outraged, not by the death and injuries to American troops, but to the alleged atrocities our men were committing. He seemed to be describing our officers and NCOs as if they were all Lieutenant Calleys.

Perhaps the worst “history” for which no language would be inappropriate were the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose comments about this country were vicious and despicable. In which case, President Obama’s response was to say that in 20 years of attending Wright’s church, he never heard insults like these. Yes, I would like to write what I thought of Obama when he claimed he was unaware of Wright’s insults. But there was worse.

Sean Hannity aired actual speeches that Obama made before he became a candidate for president, or perhaps senator from Illinois. There were portions of several appearances in front of black audiences, and the word “racism” doesn’t do them justice. Some of his comments were like a black version of the Ku Klux Klan. A columnist could feed off some of Obama’s early speeches for months, but an editor would probably not find them appropriate or timely.

There is another reason to self-censor your work. If readers expect the same kind of criticism and insults week after week, they probably fall away from your readership. I remember during the Clinton-Lewinsky episodes, I couldn’t resist writing about those characters every week. It was former editor Bill Buchanan who suggested that I vary my topics from week to week because, otherwise, I would become boringly predictable.

Let me tell you, it was tough ignoring the Clintons’ escapades and “untruths” even for one week. That’s probably how columnists writing in the 1970s felt about Richard Nixon and Watergate.

I think the mistake some of us make is believing that the more vicious we are, the more readers will enjoy reading our column. Not so. I would guess that readers are more intrigued by surprises than predictable opinions. I hope you’ll forgive me for offering my thoughts that have been distilled from 30 years of having the privilege to write for the Daily Republic.

If you’d like the numbers, that’s usually two columns a week times 52 weeks times 30 years comes, for more than 3,000 columns – each one a journalistic masterpiece, and each written by a modest citizen.

And, more seriously, thank you all for reading them over the years.

Bud Stevenson, a stockbroker, lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected]

Bud Stevenson

Bud Stevenson


Discussion | 6 comments

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  • DJKFebruary 05, 2013 - 7:24 am

    any examples of Republicans/Conservatives who you have a high distain for? Seeing that Hagel's name only recently popped up again and I've rarely heard a bad word about him when he was senator I have to wonder if it's political posturing from the Right.....hate everything Obama does/approves of/supports/etc...

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  • Sick of itFebruary 05, 2013 - 8:38 am

    I have to agree with Bud! Attacks are frequent on any posters by the usual suspects. They are quick to label the poster with their opinion. It does get old and they care less, most of the time, for constructive discussion. Of course the subjects we all know not to comment on here is Religion, Politics, and Fox News! They are like Pablo's dogs when these subjects come up. They salivate the same contempt towards the poster's opinion. They are quick to repost their opinions over and over again. Same opinions different format to address the new poster! Remember Bud that the posters here have to pay to post and we have to pay to read them. Both ways the DR makes money. It will not stop. Lol! Lol!

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  • rlw895February 05, 2013 - 9:53 pm

    I hope you mean Pavlov's dog...drool, drool.

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  • Rich GiddensFebruary 05, 2013 - 12:55 pm

    I like being opinionated and citing facts in support thereof. I like being visidious and getting under your skin. I like driving you crazy and I have a razor sharp talent for such. I specialize in insults and finding where your weaknesses are. I'm very adept with puns and turning your name into something derisive that will embarrass and humiliate you. Put me before a local governmental body for 3 minutes and they will be calling their cop thugs and gendarmes again---simply because they don't like the H-bomb content of my speech. And I'm just getting started. Bud Stevenson is innocent. His criticism of government failure and extravagance is pale compared to mine.

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  • Danny BuntinFebruary 05, 2013 - 2:20 pm

    @ Bud: This is the opinion section, right? We all have opinions, and the online site affords us the ability to agree/disagree with your opinions - instantly. My opinion on your opinion is that you are toeing the company(Republican) line with this editorial. It reads like someone who puts their Party first over the USA. You state all these so-called bad things about different people, yet provide no quotes or paraphrases. You just give straw man examples, and never go into detail or explain them. You say that Sean Hannity aired actual speeches and use the words "Racism" and "Klu Klux Klan" to define them. I feel that if you put out a partisan piece like this, you either want a lot of critical replies, or you live in the bubble.

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  • StRFebruary 05, 2013 - 10:07 pm

    ‘Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy’ is a card game produced by Steve Jackson Games that was originally released in the early 80′s. It was based on the successful book trilogy ‘The Illuminatus!’ and was supposedly designed to be a satirical, tongue in cheek take on the topic of global conspiracism, featuring opposing secret societies competing for world domination using various malevolent means. You may well have heard of this somewhat sinister card game already, as there are plenty of online references to it on other alternative and conspiracy based websites, mostly due to it’s apparent prophetic content, which rather accurately details aspects of the illuminati agenda that we are now seeing playing out in front of us on a daily basis...........The second card in the game is perhaps the most disturbing. Entitled ‘Terrorist Nuke’, it depicts two skyscrapers that look very much like the World Trade Center Twin Towers, exploding in exactly the same fashion as the first tower did when it was struck back in 2001. The description on the card says to play it any time you want to give 10+ ‘power’ or ‘resistance’ points to any violent group you control and of course since 9/11, the subsequent invasion of the Middle East has allowed the West to increase it’s power and resistance, in what has now been a 10+ year occupation................

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