Ideas argued persuasively, in good faith, with facts, reason and a principled goal in mind are essential to a healthy democracy. And yet in these divided times, the work of crafting opinion can be a perilous and counterproductive enterprise. Human nature is enough on a good day to foil compromise and forward momentum. Today we face so much more.
Too many local news outlets — which once informed, united and grounded us — have faltered. Social media feeds and blaring partisan cable news channels funnel us into bias-confirming domes. Our debates are fogged and hardened by disinformation sown by those with bad intent — some foreign, some with deep pockets lined with dark money — who seek to wield division, ignorance and confusion in order to game our democracy and seize their best advantage. We seem to have become incapable of seeing each other — our differing life experiences and values — with nuance and compassion. And too many politicians eagerly pump the bellows to inflame and leverage these divides — some real and substantive, some artificial and manufactured — to curry donors’ favor and secure cushy seats at the public trough.
Amid this toxic crisis, some media companies have given up on opinion journalism altogether. The USA Today Pennsylvania Network still believes in the power of civil dialogue, expansive reflection and incisive commentary to locate and sharpen the best ideas and policies, hold power to account, find pathways to common ground and, most importantly, meaningful solutions to our biggest problems. We won’t throw in the towel on this grand, difficult American experiment fought for and crafted on our native Pennsylvanian soil. And make no mistake: It is in peril, as the attacks on the recent election exposed.
We are newspapers and online news platforms in markets as varied as the state of Pennsylvania. We reside in the Philly suburbs, the cities and farmlands of south-central Pennsylvania and rural, wooded mountains and valleys of Pennsylvania’s T from the Poconos to the Laurel Highlands. We are western Pennsylvania mill towns in transition. We stretch from the New Jersey border far north to the Great Lakes city of Erie.
Our readers favor Sheetz and WaWa (and Rutter’s), the Steelers and the Eagles. They vote blue and red and purple. They come in all hues and their histories and cultures are a melting pot — some privileged, some awaiting their full shot at American promise, some just newly arrived. They embrace different faiths and values. But they are Pennsylvanians together.
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They share common challenges, whether it is the need for tax reform, fair education funding, racial equity, relief from the death-dealing scourge of opioids and methamphetamine or the blight and hopelessness that weighs down both cities and small towns hollowed out by globalization. They need solutions to climate change and high-speed internet to survive in the digital age. They need to know when they call their local volunteer fire department or ambulance for help, those companies have the ability to respond. They deserve a state government that is efficient, responsive and collaborative and facilitates opportunity, prosperity and responsibility.
Their interests might sometimes compete. But that does not mean they deserve gerrymandered gridlock and cynical partisan posturing and dysfunction in Harrisburg.
We believe it is in the best interests of our readers and our state to break with old, broken ways of doing business, identify the most critical obstacles keeping us from moving forward and remove them. We plan to leverage our coverage and our editorial voice and also, more importantly, your voices and experiences, to spotlight our challenges and bad habits and identify good ideas, best practices and solutions. And we don’t care which party they come from.
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We value truth, good faith and tolerance. We won’t go down rabbit holes of conspiracy theories or disinformation or hate. We have no patience with ideological intractability or partisan obstruction on any end of the spectrum. We plan to engage issues with a dry, deliberate, passionate eye towards solving problems for Pennsylvania and its people. Join us.