published Sunday, July 1st, 2012

An honor and a challenge

  • photo
    Drew Johnson has been named opinion editor for the Free Press editorial page.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Since the Times Free Press announced that I would serve as the new editor of the Free Press opinion page, the number of people who have reached out with their congratulations and well wishes has warmed my heart. I am sincerely grateful for the kindness of this community.

It is no secret that I am following a local legend and a giant in the newspaper industry. Lee Anderson left an indelible mark on this region, and the significance and the success of the Free Press opinion page is largely a reflection of his passion, energy and insight. It is an honor to carry forth Lee's tradition.

That's not to say that this page won't look a little different. After all, when Lee was born, Calvin Coolidge was president and it cost two cents to mail a letter. When I was born Jimmy Carter was president, and by the time I was in high school, I sent emails rather than letters. Naturally, we have distinctive opinions and care about different issues.

While I am an East Tennessee native, I'm not from Chattanooga. There is no Maclellan or Lupton in my family tree. The closest I've ever come to Coca-Cola stock was refilling the soda shelves at Food Lion as a teen. I don't play golf with members of the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners. I don't have cookouts with Hamilton County school board members. Because I am not beholden to friendships or feelings, there will be no sacred cows on the Free Press opinion page.

Being an outsider allows me to approach local issues with honesty and objectivity that, I hope, will both ruffle feathers and be a breath of fresh air.

Going forward, this page will be guided by one core principal: People should be given as much liberty as possible to make decisions for themselves and their families. As a result, the contents of this page generally will reflect tenets of limited government and personal responsibility. This means that politicians won't be given a pass just because they have an "R" next to their names, and policies won't be advocated just because they are considered conservative. Likewise, this page will applaud individuals and ideas that advance liberty, reduce the size and scope of government and uphold the Constitution.

From my days as the founder and president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (now the Beacon Center of Tennessee), I am known for mixing public policy, investigative journalism and punditry. The Free Press opinion page will reflect that same approach in order to expose the problems of the region and, hopefully, recommend useful solutions.

My vision for this page puts a premium on holding public officials accountable and exposing and criticizing abuses of power, corruption, incompetence, wasted tax dollars, bad public policy and sheer stupidity -- and there is plenty of all that on all levels of government to keep me busy for a long, long time. It won't be all name-calling and negativity, however. I look forward to celebrating the many successes of the region and sharing the stories of people who make this area a better place.

I will strive to expand the conversation beyond the printed page. My Twitter account -- @Drews_Views -- will feature the Free Press page's observations on breaking news stories. I also will engage with readers in the comments section online and on the Times Free Press' Facebook page.

Serving as the editor for one of the largest conservative/free market opinion pages in America is an honor. Having to defend those principles with a first-rate liberal opinion page in the same newspaper is an exciting challenge. I look forward to debating the Times about the pressing issues of the day, and also in serious discussions about the proper role of government in the lives of the people it serves. There are few questions more fundamental to a free society.

I have long admired Chattanooga from afar, and I couldn't be more excited about putting roots down and becoming an active member of the community -- a controversial, infuriating, divisive, subversive member of the community.

Please introduce yourself if you see me out, feel free to invite me to speak at civic groups and community organizations, write letters to the editor and comment on Free Press editorials. I look forward to interacting with as many Times Free Press readers as possible.

It's a great privilege to write for the readers of this community and represent the voice of a vibrant, passionate ideology.

-- Drew Johnson

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
AndrewLohr said...

Good job so far.

July 1, 2012 at 12:03 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Our local watch group is soooooooooooooooooooo happy they hired you. Truth would be a welcome change. Welcome to Chattanooga, or Little Chicago, as we call it.

July 1, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.

Indeed, truth would certainly be a welcome change, as well as honesty and objectivity.

Not seeing it so far though.

July 1, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Welcome. I'm looking forward to a change from the previous editor who preferred RINOs, and especially incumbents, over any newcomer who actually wanted to make a dent in the size of government.

July 1, 2012 at 6:59 a.m.
conservative said...

The Liberals who comment hear seethe at the truth and will attack you like a pack of wolves on a helpless fawn. Just be mindful that truth can not be refuted, it can only be accepted or rejected.

July 1, 2012 at 7:05 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

When you see any opinion piece (left or right) passed off as "truth", be suspicious.

July 1, 2012 at 8:01 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Previous editorial staffs would feed a head on an insert machine for Thanksgivings. When you pay your dues on the toughest day of the year, then we might consider that your first day on the job.

Your previous editorials badmouthing the poor, making toilet related jokes about the President, and generally acting like a snot are totally unwelcome. You need to earn the title of paperman, and you haven't. Good luck.

July 1, 2012 at 8:04 a.m.
ldurham said...

After reading Mr. Johnson's lengthy brag about all he's done, everything he's accomplished, and how he's changed the world in a few short years, one has to wonder: The best job he could land is with a fading newspaper in a small market in Tennessee?

July 1, 2012 at 8:35 a.m.
aae1049 said...

I fail to see "brag." Maybe you can suggest to the new Editor how he could introduce himself to a community without summarizing professional background.

July 1, 2012 at 9:25 a.m.
rosebud said...

"I am known for mixing public policy, investigative journalism and punditry." Really? Known by who? If you're so "known" why do you have to tell us what a delightful pundit you are? How about this: get over yourself, put together a decent body of work over a period of time, and then the readers will decide what you're "known" for.

And JonRoss, don't hold your breath waiting for any coverage of the TFP unionization issue. You'll have to read other media outlets for that. The TFP loves to stick it's nose in other company's business, but chooses to look the other way in-house.

July 1, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
shen said...

Just another TT fruitcake. They've produce many throughout the decades.

July 1, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
moon4kat said...

Mr. Johnson, I was optimistic about the "breath of fresh air" until you wrote: "It won't be all name-calling and negativity . . . "

In what universe is any name-calling a constructive contribution to the debate?

July 2, 2012 at 8:43 a.m.
moon4kat said...

JonRoss, really? Please provide some specific examples.

July 2, 2012 at 7:16 p.m.
Plato said...

Welcome Drew - but get a good firm hold onto your seat :)

July 2, 2012 at 10:34 p.m.
moon4kat said...

JonRoss still has failed to offer any specifics to support his wild allegation.

July 5, 2012 at 5:16 p.m.
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