COLUMN: Most commenters add valuable voice to the conversation

Sunday, April 25, 2010 | 1:18 p.m. CDT; updated 9:49 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Political columnists tend to choose topics to open the flow of conversation. I am proud of my work and use my social media avenues to tell friends, family and colleagues about my latest.

Last week’s Missourian column, “Politicians' Secession Threats are Childish,” and a sister commentary at, "In the Purfuit of Happyneff," seem to have opened the floodgates. Beyond the 16 responses I received on the Missourian and Ink and Voice websites, 80-plus comments have been generated in my social networking groups, like’s “Democrats and Republicans,” “Republican National Committee,” “Democratic National Committee” and “Progressive Democrats.” Many of these are open and continuing conversations.

The flood of response is not worthy of Noah, but a small canoe would work to navigate the multiple waterways.

A large portion of this week’s discussion involves the definition of the American government, if we are a republic, a democracy, a representative democracy or something else. Or whether the Obama administration is sending this country down a road of socialism, fascism, totalitarianism or communism.

I used definitions from the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. One commenter claimed that I “picked the definitions which fit (my) agenda.”

Does this mean that Merriam is wrong? That Webster is a commie-liberal?

For the most part, the comments have been quite civil. Three of my more conservative readers, Todd, Mark and Mary, from the “Democrats and Republicans” group, welcomed me into their fold. Mark wrote, “I just want to welcome you officially to the group. I think you have survived your pledge program. We will likely not agree on much but that's OK. I admire someone with the courage to take up their position even if they are a Lefty.”

That’s “commie-pinko-hippie freak” if you don’t mind. I am still waiting for my secret decoder ring.

Then there is Joe, a member of the Republican National Committee group who thinks I am great. Or at least worthy.

I must say that regardless of the title of the political group, each maintains the gambit of ultra-conservatives to ultra-liberals and all the gray in between.

One conversation started with taxes and is now entering the realm of alarmist politics. Comments here prompted one responder to quote Henry Lewis Mencken, essayist, newspaper editor and satirist. "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Maybe ole Henry had something there. He seems to have described the campaign for the April elections in Columbia.

The bottom line is, the vast majority of responders to commentary are thoughtful, intelligent and take pride in their own positions. They read and listen, and try to understand where the other party is coming from. They are, after all, commentators themselves.

They, like all good commentators, work on verifiable facts and sources that can be located and analyzed. Those sources could be questioned, but the source can be found. Readers also ask some very good questions ranging from Tea Party propaganda to Fabian Socialism. Yes, I also had to look that one up.

There are those few who only throw insults. From these two commentaries alone, I have been called an idiot, a “pecker-head,” a commie, un-American, and a few other things I cannot repeat here.

In all, I relish the feedback and I am glad that occasionally I will find a subject that incites others to take quill to parchment, or at least fingers to keyboard, engage their brains and enter in the conversation.

On April 30, I will be speaking to the luncheon meeting of the Muleskinners about writing commentary. You are invited. Maybe we can strike up a great conversation.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics.  You can read more of David’s commentaries at and the New York Journal of Books.

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Joy Piazza April 22, 2010 | 12:08 p.m.

I'm all for civil dialogue that tangles with important, often opposing, social and political issues, but curious: should the Missourian set up a section entitled "Advertorials" where these kinds of columns are placed? The point of this article is to advertise David Rosman's upcoming speaking engagement, his blog, and social networks.

I read this as David Rosman brand marketing. I did not see any "news" or even an editorial reporting a point of view about the recent local elections. Nothing against David Rosman, but rather I question Missourian editors: How is this a news article?

I can understand how we should give leeway to other similar articles where the goal is clearly to promote MU in one way or another...after all, I think most in the community completely understand your funding and your training mission, thus where your allegiances must lie. But this article does not even meet that criterion. Just curious.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 22, 2010 | 12:29 p.m.

I am probably the last person in Columbia to defend David Rosman, but this and his other columns are presented as opinion pieces, not as news reporting.

I may think Rosman's opinions aren't worth printing, but if the Missourian thinks they are, fine. Nobody is forced to read them, or Nolen's or Miller's, etc.

Persons writing opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines may say profound things or totally ridiculous things, or some combination of the two. Often a columnist is overtly pushing an agenda. If you don't believe that, read some of the nationally syndicated columnists on a daily basis.

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir April 22, 2010 | 1:18 p.m.

Ms. Piazza: It's a column, not a news article. We label columns, letters to the editor, analysis, questions, etc., as such in the headline.

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Joy Piazza April 22, 2010 | 4:48 p.m.

Rob, I don't mean to argue, but rather to understand. I believe we're good people and have the best of intentions.

I'm thinking a column in a newspaper still needs to meet the standard of news in some fashion, does it not? Typically opinion pieces speak to something concrete and relevant to the day's (the week's) news. This "column" essentially said: I have a blog and I post on social media. Some people like what I say and some don't. I don't yet have my liberal decoder ring, but I want you to know conservatives like me. Read my blog and come hear me at the Muleskinners meeting.

Am I mis-reading here? Is there actually something of substance that is newsworthy to the community of readers that eludes me? Maybe the newsworthy point I missed is that some/a couple-few conservatives like what Dave says, so the Muleskinners will not??

I know a lot of people who have blogs and post on social media who can say the same thing Dave says: some people like what they say and some don't. I suspect there are several thousand in Columbia alone who would count themselves among this group. I even know a couple who have earned their decoder rings, though not all from liberal-democratic parties. Some even speak in front of groups. Wouldn't this kind of "column" make better sense in a blog post, if not an advertorial section? Sorry Dave; nothing personal. I'm just not finding anything of substance or news/opinion relevance to the community in this piece and am perplexed as to its form of publication.

(Report Comment)

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