The editor of a newspaper in west-central Minnesota caused a stir last month when he asked readers to stop sending in letters on a particular subject: former president Donald Trump.
Chris Ray, the editor of the Grant County Herald in Elbow Lake, raised eyebrows with his editorial column, titled "Enough already!", which made the specific request of local readers, saying that the ongoing back-and-forth about the president was sowing more division in the county of 6,000.
"Seldom has an issue so galvanized opinion writers like the four years of President Donald J. Trump," he wrote. "We have published dozens of both pro and con President Trump letters throughout the years. One letter spawns a reply, which spawns a counter reply, and so on and so on. Nothing is solved, and no one’s mind is changed. These letters do little but cause hard feelings and have neighbors saying things they shouldn’t say about each other."
"But now the Trump era is over! He is no longer president… and I now declare the Opinion & Letters page of the Grant County Herald to be a Trump-free zone… at least for now!" Ray declared.
"We will not publish letters to the editor, columns, or editorials, (after this week), in which the main subject is Donald J. Trump, his flaws, or his attributes. We believe this will go a long way towards cooling down the vitriolic rhetoric of the last four years.
"As they say, 'Out of sight, out of mind'…hopefully!"
You can read Ray's letter in full here. In it, he also clarifies to readers what the First Amendment means, noting that as a private business, the Grant County Herald is under no obligation to publish every reader's letter.
Trump carried Grant County comfortably in the 2020 election, winning 62.2% of the vote to President Joe Biden's 35.6%.
Ray's letter sparked a "clarification" from the newspaper's general manager, Anne O'Flynn, who said that the Opinion Page is but one section of the newspaper and that while the editor has called for a break from letters concerning the former president, "I’m sure we will again have another tug-of-war between his opponents and his followers."
"Last week we had an editorial that called for a ‘time out’ for letters and editorials about our most recent former president. This was to put a stop to the potentially never-ending back and forth ‘for and against’ him," she wrote. "Like two people who will never agree – some time apart seemed necessary."
"Don’t worry, ‘freedom of speech’ is alive and well – and everyone’s letters are welcome. The editorial called for everyone to ‘take a breath’ and maybe try to agree to disagree for a while. In the over 20 years I’ve been at the Herald, I can recall only a handful of letters to the editor (properly signed) that have not run. They did not run because they were profane or libelous, and our attorney recommended they not run."