Jayne: Listening a critical skill in this job – and everywhere else

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

Let's start with a disclaimer: No, I'm not obsessed with the CRC.

On the other hand, I don't create the news, I simply opine about it. And a new effort to revive the Columbia River Crossing offers an opportunity to provide a little insight. Into my column. Into my thoughts about this job. Into the difference between an opinion piece and the paper's editorials.

To start with, I am staunchly opposed to light rail. Now, before you pop the champagne corks — or write me off as a incompletely formed Neanderthal — let's talk about this.

First of all, I don't think light rail is cost-effective. You spend copious amounts of money to achieve transportation goals that could be carried out by buses for a fraction of the cost.

Second, I look at my mother and my in-laws and sister-in-law and my other sister-in-law and … well, you get the idea. They all live in Portland, where billions of dollars have been spent to create a vast light-rail network, yet none of them are within walking distance of light-rail. Most people in Portland have to get in their cars — or ride a bus — to reach light rail, which kinds of defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

Third, I think Vancouver is mistaken if it expects light rail to carry hordes of Portlanders across the river to nosh on our many delights. As a recovering Portlander, I can say with certainty that the people over there view the Columbia River as a giant moat rather than a waterway. To them, Vancouver is nothing more than that place you drive through on the way to Seattle. I'm not saying it's right; I'm just saying that's how they think.

Hey, it's their loss.

I have formed these opinions while spending all 47 of my years — except during college — in the Portland area. I have watched the region transform over generations and am well-versed in its history and its culture.

These are well-thought-out positions. And guess what — it doesn't mean that I'm right.

You see, the most important thing about being an opinion editor might be the ability to listen to other people's opinions.

Which brings us to the insight into my column. Each week, I will be writing an opinion piece in this space, and that opinion will be mine. I own it; I take the heat — or the lavish praise — for it.

Meanwhile, I will be writing the daily "In Our View" piece that appears in the upper left corner of this page. These will present a strong, decisive, coherent opinion — at least that's the idea — that reflects the consensus of The Columbian's Editorial Board.

Many of you already understand that delineation, but after some of the questions I received last week I thought it would be worthwhile to clarify those differences.

Sometimes, I will write an editorial that I personally disagree with. I'm OK with that. Our Editorial Board is made up of intelligent, educated, thoughtful people who care about this community. I might disagree with them on a particular issue, but that doesn't mean that they're wrong.

You see, one of the reasons I wanted to become The Columbian's Opinion editor is my dismay over the level of discourse in this country. All too often I am left with the impression that we don't know how to talk to each other. Scratch that. I am left with the impression that we don't know how to listen to each other.

Discussions of political and social significance have been reduced to shouting matches and snarky put-downs. Interestingly, a study released last year by the Brookings Institute showed that partisanship in political discourse has been on the rise since 1994, but has not reached the levels it was at during Reconstruction or the late 19th Century. Frankly, I'm not sure that saying we're doing a little better than 120 years ago is worthy of a feather in our cap. I would hope we could evolve more rapidly.

Anyway, after last week's introduction, I wasn't planning on writing another column that serves as a bit of an overview for our readers, nor was I planning on writing again about the CRC. But, as we all know, sometimes the CRC is just too compelling to ignore.