Adlai Stevenson once said a journalist is someone who carefully separates the wheat from the chaff, then prints the chaff. Lord, the truth hurts.
It's too easy to pander to the kind of readers who like to have their own shifting moods mirrored and magnified every day in their morning paper - or on their favorite Web site. So do we all. It's very gratifying. But only for a little while - before we start to think about it, and realize that gratification does not equal vindication.
The object of this game, always, should be to elevate the public discourse, not further degrade it - however satisfying it may be to parade our pet prejudices in print. We can safely leave that sort of thing to zealous partisans and ambitious politicians, especially in an election year.
A lapsed editorial writer who used to work here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - this year he's managing the campaign of a gubernatorial candidate - once told me an instructive story about his grandfather back in Georgia. As a sophisticated young man, he was trying to explain to the old man that not all issues are black and white in the real world, but rather there are different shades of gray, there's not always a right and wrong, yadda-yadda-yaddaŠ.
To all of which his grandfather listened patiently, then replied: "Son, there's always a right and wrong. You just have to find it."
That's about the best description I've ever heard of an editorial writer's job. Now go and study.