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Last week, feature reporter and Coffee Talk columnist   Corwin Gibson received an email from a local nonprofit  director in regard to one of his columns.Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham

Our news reporters cover meetings, events and other items, requiring them to obtain on-the-record quotes, documents and official statements prior to writing their stories. While Gibson does the same as a feature writer, as a columnist, his Coffee Talks reflect on the city’s mood, with off-the-record opinions from residents who tell him their views over coffee or while he’s out and about on assignment. In one way, Gibson’s columns reflect the zeitgeist of Sedona.

Per column inch, Gibson’s Coffee Talks probably generate more letters to the editor and email responses than any other part of the newspaper, so receiving an email from a local nonprofit director was par for the course.

What made this email unusual was that it was sent from the director’s official nonprofit organization’s email address. As such, we could have justifiably assumed the email was an official statement from the director on behalf of the organization, however, the topic was beyond the purview of the nonprofit’s official mission so we asked for confirmation. The director told us the email was a personal opinion, not official and was sent from the official email address in error.

Had it been sent from a private email address, there would never been any question about its origin and official stance.

In a city as small as Sedona, the same resident may wear many hats. A person may serve on a nonprofit board, a city committee and a homeowners association. It’s vital to know with which voice that person is speaking. The same person may have completely different opinions based on which voice he or she is using.

Elected public officials don’t enjoy that same liberty to compartmentalize their opinions, but public citizens do, so it’s important to be clear about whether you represent your club, group, organization or just yourself when voicing a public opinion.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the paramount right of our republic. Barring slander or inciting violence, unpopular opinions in the United States have as much right to be heard in the public sphere as any other. We Americans may not always like what we hear but it is our national and government’s duty to protect it.

Unlike more homogenous liberal or conservative communities, Sedona is a wild mix of opinions from libertarians to moderates to socialists and as a newspaper, we receive opinions from all parts of the spectrum.

We encourage our readers to send us letters to the editor about what they read in our paper, about goings-on in the community, about views on local, regional and national issues. Just be clear about the source.

This newspaper is a record of your voices, Sedona, a forum to exercise your First Amendment right.

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