I get this question a lot: We live in a conservative area, so why aren’t there more conservative viewpoints on the Opinion pages?

It’s a good question, but it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Times-News hopes to accomplish in the Opinion section.

We’re not here to reaffirm already-held viewpoints. If you want continual affirmation of conservative views, go check out Fox News. Same if you’re a Democrat: You can flip to MSNBC if you don’t want your liberal positions to be challenged.

Unlike most TV commentary, our goal is to share as many viewpoints as possible — to challenge what you might already think about an issue, or at the very least give you a glimpse into the minds of your political opposites. That means we strive to provide a motley mix of conservative, liberal, libertarian and progressive ideas. My goal is to get more viewpoints in the paper, not fewer.

As the manager of the Opinion pages, I regularly choose to feature writers I don’t necessarily agree with. I’m a firm believer that the best ideas hold up to scrutiny, and that the public is better informed and better served when our positions are challenged and shaped by all kinds of ideas. Just because you see a liberal writer in the newspaper (or conservative, for that matter) doesn’t mean the writer has the endorsement of this newspaper. It’s foolish to conclude that we’re a liberal paper because we sometimes feature a liberal columnist. Same goes for trying to label us conservative.

Lately, though, it’s been pretty difficult to strike the right balance. The reasons are twofold:

First, nearly all of the most prominent national conservative writers have abandoned the president. In some readers’ minds, they’re just as liberal as Democrats now. I’m talking about Charles Krauthammer (whose column runs every Sunday in the Times-News), George Will (who has forsaken the Republican Party), and pretty much everybody at William F. Buckley’s National Review (which last fall dedicated an entire issue of the magazine to conservative writers bashing Donald Trump.) Just for fun, do a quick Google search for “conservative writers who support Trump,” and you’ll see how messy things have gotten.

There’s a real struggle occurring now to define the ideals of the Republican Party. Are they represented by Donald Trump, or traditional conservatives like John McCain? What about Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Idaho’s own Raul Labrador?

Same goes for Democrats. Is Hillary Clinton the torch-bearer for liberals, or is it Bernie Sanders? Heck, even the GOP-controlled Idaho Legislature seldom votes along straight party lines. This year, we saw our Republican governor veto a bill to repeal the grocery tax that was widely supported by his own party, which subsequently sued the governor over the veto. Which side represented the “real” Republicans?

You see what I’m getting at.

Second, only the local Democratic Party has taken up my offer to write a regular column for the newspaper. Two former party chairs — Bob Sojka and Linda Brugger — write regular columns for us. We do publish two Idaho Republican columnists, radio personalities Bill Colley and eastern Idaho’s Neal Larson, but their columns seldom yield truly local conservative perspectives. They’re Idaho guys writing mostly about national issues.

So it’s hard not to roll my eyes when conservative Magic Valley politicians criticize the Times-News for being a “liberal paper” when they’ve repeatedly ignored our invitation to write for the Opinion pages.

But that’s about to change.

Just last week local Republicans committed to having a voice in your paper. Soon, you’ll see regular columns from prominent Twin Falls Republicans like Rep. Lance Clow and Rep. Steve Hartgen. I’m thrilled; their viewpoints will certainly strengthen the Opinion pages and provide perspective that’s admittedly been missing from the paper.

The next big announcement is the addition of conservative national columnist Cal Thomas (still a Trump supporter) to the Times-News beginning this week. Thomas is a legend among conservatives, and his insights are widely respected.

Our Opinion pages, of course, aren’t restricted to elected office-holders or celebrity writers from Washington, D.C. It’s your voices and ideas I cherish most, and you’re always welcome to share them by shooting me a letter or offering a guest column on an important local issue. I promise to publish them, as long as they aren’t hateful or libelous. Like I said, I don’t have to agree with your opinion to feature it in the newspaper.

We’re working hard to contribute the best and most varied ideas on all the issues. I hope you’ll join me in our effort to make the Magic Valley the smartest, most informed corner of Idaho.

Matt Christensen is editor of the Times-News. Reach him at 208-735-3255 or matt.christensen@magicvalley.com

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