Irene North


The changing times

NOTE: The Star-Herald has decided to stop allowing reporters to write columns. This is what I wrote for tomorrow’s column and would have run on Thursday, February 2, 2017. I normally have more links and photos in my stories, but I did not know until late Wednesday afternoon this column would not run in the paper. I’ve added links for the sites I could remember and could find again.

This country is in danger of falling apart.

Policies are threatening us and our way of life. Illegal bans on individuals from countries who are not a terrorist threat were put into place through executive order. It didn’t matter if they were green card holders. Donald Trump consulted no one and fired the one person who legally questioned its constitutionality.

Peaceful demonstrations around the nation forced the justice system to take a stand. Republican Strategist Ana Navarro said, “In period of 7 days, Trump’s twice managed to mobilize thousands of Americans against him across the USA. Something’s happening out there.”

That something is the people who will not stand for hateful policies foisted upon them with no checks and balances.

This ban, which doesn’t affect countries where terrorists who killed Americans actually came from, enhanced unfounded fears and made Trump ISIS’s number one recruiting agent.

Moves have been made to allow drilling for oil and gas in national parks. Scientists are being silenced. Proposals have been made to cut or eliminate the arts. Walls to keep “them” out and “us” in threaten habitats and species.

Paper trails documenting policies, which are vital to the stability of a democracy, are not being kept.

We are lied to continuously.

These incidences have the fingerprints of Steve Bannon all over them. Beginning with the inauguration speech, words drifting out of the White House are traced back to him. We don’t talk enough about Bannon, the editor of a white nationalist website, who wormed his way into the job of chief strategist for the president. He’s now a member of the National Security Council. Bannon has no experience with foreign policy and national security, but was given the job anyway. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were promptly ousted, despite being the most knowledgeable members on security.

This white supremacist told the press to shut up and listen to what he says.

I will not be a silent accomplice to the destruction of America.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 1918 in the Kansas City Star, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American Public.”

I’m not against the office of the president. I’m against policies which seek to violate or destroy the Constitution.

I will not give Trump a few weeks or months before I criticize his policies. I don’t want months of executive orders – orders the Republicans said should be stopped under Barack Obama – and violations of the Constitution. Trump had his chance and he came out of the gate with a pen to destroy.

I have been asked why things can’t be like they were before. Why can’t people just share fun stuff on Facebook? Why does everyone have to talk politics? They’re talking politics because they see what is happening and care enough to try and fix it. They share because you don’t want to see what is happening to your country, how one man is dividing us into chaos and you’d rather sit idly by and look at cat memes or pictures of your grandchildren.

The people who voted for Trump refuse to denounce his policies that are based on fear, not facts. They seem fine with the notion our country is headed toward a propaganda-driven nationalist state. They said they were “good people” when they voted for Trump. Where are they now? Why are they silent?

This is not a left vs. right battle. It is democracy vs. authoritarianism.

I am horrified at what we are becoming. People I now live in fear of the “other” who are somehow going to harm them despite all evidence to the contrary.

This fight is not over. We will keep showing up because it matters. I want to have hope things will get better. I really do. But the White House is devoid of integrity and our humanity is at stake.

Steve Bannon, and some folks in Scottsbluff, have told me I should keep my mouth shut. You should already know that’s not going to happen.

I will speak up for those who cannot. I will be a voice for those who can’t speak publicly for fear of losing their job or being ostracized. I will speak for the cowards who refuse to speak. I will speak for the people who voted for Trump but can’t swallow their pride and admit something is wrong. I will not be silent. I will criticize policies that hurt us all.

When you drain a swamp, you remove mostly water. What’s left behind is the mud and the muck. Trump was right. He drained the swamp. It’s the garbage left behind America has to deal with.


A playlist for the car


Immigrants make us all better


  1. Deb Carpenter-Nolting

    Thank you for your bravery, Irene.

  2. Liza Betz-Marquez

    Brave indeed. Do you still work there?

  3. Lesley Gaunt Jim Collister

    Sad your voice is being muzzled by your editors at the paper. J

  4. Michael Broderick

    What the hell is going on? They are going to have reporters, but not publish your stories or opinions? This sounds to me like double think

    • Irene North

      We are still writing our stories, we just can’t write our columns/opinion pieces anymore.

    • Michael Broderick

      Wow, who knew consveratives could have a sensitive side, but looks like you hit one of theirs. Is no less outrageous to me, know more than ever before people need to be exposed to views that differ from their own. I’m very sorry to hear this news.

    • Irene North

      Thanks, Michael. And I intend to keep writing and sharing to whoever is willing to read.

  5. Jen Baird

    It’s sad when even the editor’s make their own stance on one side of the aisle.

  6. Dave Calkins

    BRAVO IRENE!! You are not alone. We must all fight this travesty.

  7. Joni Sakurada Hotz

    There are more of us here than they would like to think (or admit). We will support you. Thank you for your voice!

  8. Jennifer Rogers

    I’m really really saddened by this Irene. Your opinion pieces have meant so much to many of us.

  9. Teri Robinson

    What the hell is going in there?!?! Why can’t you guys publish your columns?

  10. Mindy Larson Baird

    You will always have my support! Much love to you Irene North!

  11. Candice Fisher Pederson

    Pretty sad when the paper is censoring itself

  12. Susan Leeling

    Your opinions should not be stifled because of their content, even though I don’t agree with them. I’m glad you still have your page as a venue. However, your bosses do have the right to make the decision that they did. But they could have put a disclaimer on your column stating your opinion is not the opinion of the newspaper as a whole.

  13. Lauren D. Ekdahl

    So Bannon wins at the Star Herald when he said “the media should shut up.” I have a deep appreciation for your courage and your writing skill. I believe it is a travesty that our reporters have to hide their observations because the editors are afraid of public reaction.

  14. Mary Kunzman Wernke

    I am going to play the devil’s advocate for a minute, so don’t crucify me just yet. Could it be the publisher is concerned the reporters’ opinions could be perceived as a bias in a future news article or interview? In the not-so-distant past, opinion pieces were for editors only or at least formed by an editorial board. I enjoy many opinions and happen to agree with yours, Irene. Columns, more topical and entertaining than opinion, were a venue some reporters were allowed to tread. Thoughts?

    • Irene North

      The only thing we were told was if people don’t like my column they may not want to do an interview with me. The rest would be speculation on my part. However, if people don’t like columnists who are remaining, that could affect other things, including circulation. Still, I’m speculating here. I was specifically told it wasn’t censorship and the paper is changing some things (some I know of now and can’t talk about yet) and columns are the first changes.

    • Irene North

      More and more reporters are pulling double duty on being a journalist and a columnist. Most of the papers in the state are like this and the trend seems to be going that way. Papers used to have an editorial, columnists and reporters and each had their own thing and didn’t tread into the others’ territory. Much like reporters used to write news and photojournalists took photos, we now do both as well as shoot and produce video. Columns/opinion pieces are just another thing we were asked to do.

    • Lauren D. Ekdahl

      One thing they could change is that stupid daily poll. I would be ashamed to advertise that only a handful of people respond and vertually no one takes it serious. How can that pooled ignorance qualify as a Public serviceis beyond me.

    • Katie Bradshaw

      I can see Mary’s point. Personally, when I was a reporter, I very much preferred to “go stealth” with my political leanings because I believed people were more candid with me if they thought I agreed with them. I can see how, in this climate of “the press is biased, the press lies,” an opinion column by a news reporter could make attitude towards the press worse, particularly in a small community.

  15. Kimberly Hippe Mendez

    If they go with more syndicated columnists, it is going to look like they are giving up. Bad idea.

  16. Kerri Schnase-Berge

    Irene, thanks. I will be calling the star herald tomorrow and cancelling my subscription. Nothing is creepier than silencing the free press.

  17. Mary Robinson

    Extremely disappointing–I always enjoy your columns– I look forward to the day the are published. Censorship appears to be alive and well.

  18. LeAnn Nuss Lovato

    Talk about “snowflakes!”. What a joke! There already isn’t enough sought-after information in there to warrant having a daily paper, and all the “good stuff” is on Facebook for free. They may as well become a weekly paper at this rate. What an utterly weak move.

  19. Joe Dutton

    What the hell is Steve going to do now? Lol, that’s all he ever did. I shared your post and I stand with to my friend. Power to the people!

  20. Kathy-Kuhn Gaertig

    Mary you are voicing a good journalism perspective here. Very correct on Editor writing the Editorial…and columns tended to be morning eclectic, personal experiences and or informational neches. KG

  21. Kathy-Kuhn Gaertig

    More not morning…I hate auto correct

  22. Mary Jones Kropp

    I only read the obituaries and the police reports when I was there. Oh, and the comics. I was kind of a blue fish in the Red Sea.

  23. Donald Mai

    We all have opinions and we all have the freedom of speech. If you don’t like what is written don’t read it. I am sure the Editor was worried about the bottom line, the almighty buck. One good thing about our country is the freedom of speech.

  24. Doug Harris

    Folks need to please remember the Star Herald is not locally owned and is not an actual ‘local’ paper … it is part of the Omaha World-Herald Company. The Omaha World-Herald Company was acquired by billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway in 2012.

    One can assume the Star Herald publisher and editors have at least some limited autonomy to make decisions but they answer to a giant corporation (not the residents of the Panhandle) when it comes to policy changes for the paper.

    Like many others I will miss Irene North’s fresh and lucid voice regarding important issues facing our nation in these turbulent times of rapid change. I plan to follow her blog more diligently.

    I do hope the publisher is allowed to continue his excellent critiques of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipeline projects – we will have to wait and see what limited freedom he is allowed.

    So it is probably unfair to place ‘blame’ on the professional editorial staff and the publisher regarding this disappointing change at the newspaper.

    This change will certainly make the ‘letters to the editor’ section a great deal less interesting, however … it is one of the more entertaining sections of the Star Herald that apparently (hopefully) will still offer some local voices to be heard on issues deemed ‘controversial.’

    And while they are often very beautiful shots we can probably expect more giant pictures of eagles to fill up some of the empty space that has been discontinued. I’m sure the paper will continue to offer some genuine and heartfelt fishing stories. But, I gotta be honest here, I’m really just not that into fishing.

    • Kara Flaherty

      “One can assume the Star Herald publisher and editors have at least some limited autonomy to make decisions but they answer to a giant corporation (not the residents of the Panhandle) when it comes to policy changes for the paper.”

      I can see how it’s easy to assume that, but the publisher and editors actually have full autonomy. That is key to the arrangement. The blame here needs to go where it belongs.

    • William Benzel

      Ms. North’s political leanings are very much in line with the Omaha World-Herald and Warren Buffett. What is needed are journalists and not more political commentators pretending to be journalists.

  25. Tracy Bennett-Ribeiro

    Well said! Voiced my opinions perfectly. Thank you

  26. Rod Russell

    Kudos to Star Herald for not publishing your liberal paranoid vomit. You should write for Time Magazine, propoganda for the DNC.

  27. John Ireland

    After reading this I understand why, and fully condone it!

  28. Ray Ethell

    I am sure you could write for AJ+………

  29. Kelly Gallawa

    Well thank you Irene for regurgitating all the leftist Democrat misinformation and lies we have all been subjected too ad naseum for the last week. I’m sure we are all better off for you throwing your 10 cents worth in.

    • Irene North

      You’re welcome. Thank you for reading.

    • Jina RedNest

      I thought your opinions were good and column was written for discussion. What the heck ? scary that you cant express your opinion…..

    • Stan Grossman

      Wow so your editor goes to Northfield and censors your article and now Kelly who also goes there attacks you. Guess they aren’t into their whole “Love God, Love PEOPLE” thing that they said when I visited. That’s unfortunate that followers of Jesus would treat anyone this way. Thanks for being a balanced voice Irene. Enjoyed the article, and will miss your column.

    • Irene North

      Stan Grossman I plan to keep writing at least once a week on my website. I’m partially finished with something right now. If I get the time, I’ll do more than one a week, but I need to find the right balance of time. I used to write my columns on Sunday and turn them in Monday for print on Thursday. This past Sunday I just took the day off of everything. My blog posts autopost to my Facebook page, so hopefully folks will see them and continue to enjoy the things I do. I’m not getting paid to do these now, but I written a blog in one form or another since 1998. I can’t imagine not writing.

  30. Scott Phillips

    “We are lied to continuously.” Yup. “you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor, health insurance costs will go down….” if you are going to “report” the news, you need to report both sides, not just what supports your agenda.

  31. Kevin Damke

    There are more “I”s in this BLOG (Big Load Of Garbage) than a typical Obama speach!

  32. Cindy Groskopf

    Maybe it’s the articles she writes

  33. Gabriel N Naomi Gallawa

    I’m not for censorship or pro-Trump. I think you should be allowed to publish your opinion- even if it is hypocritical. People with fully functioning brains will seek the truth and figure it out for themselves. Why can’t things be like they were- um they are! Trump is doing what Obama did- and NOW it’s a problem? I guess it’s only offensive if it’s the “other side” doing it.

  34. Douglas M Funk

    You DO have a way with words, Irene. Eloquent and well spoken, obviously an experienced writer. I read your column and it is straight up opinion. Not news at all. Your employer could obviously see thst as well. I am sure you will find an outlet for your opinions at another publication. Meanwhile, do understand the difference between journalism and commentary.

    • Maunette Loeks

      Opinion columns ran on the opinion page. Thank you.

    • Irene North

      Thank you for your kind words about me being eloquent and well-spoken, but I do understand the difference between journalism and commentary. My commentary (column) appeared each Thursday on the opinion page because, you know, I was writing my opinion. My articles run on the front page, page 2, page 3, in the local section on page 8, 9 or 10. I also write lifestyle and youth pages. I do understand the difference between journalism and commentary and didn’t blur those lines. My column even ran with the header “My view” just in case anyone didn’t know it when I wrote in first person. It seems I’m not the one who has a problem knowing the difference between the two.

    • Rick Myers

      Irene North Well put. Often times readers do not understand the difference, and cannot accept those differences. It has become so easy to lash out at something with which you disagree. Stay firm in your convictions!!

    • Douglas M Funk

      I guess I’m not clear about the point of the article that instigated this post and discussion. Are you contending that your newspaper is attempting to silence some opinions for some reason? Does your newspaper have a reason for so strictly segregating reporters and opinion writers? I know that some news outlets on television are very scrupulous about reporters only reporting with no editorial commentary, and ensuring that the commentary shows are clearly known to be commentary. Just curious.

    • Irene North

      Douglas M Funk Our publisher addressed this in his column on Sunday. Hopefully, it clears things up.

    • Douglas M Funk

      That was very well written, stated the reasons clearly, and answered any questions I had about the reason for the decision. Thanks!

      I hope you find another outlet for your opinion pieces, assuming you will continue your straight reporting of course. You write thoughtful pieces that should have an audience. Thanks for your time.

    • Irene North

      Douglas M Funk Yes, I will still have my daily articles in the paper. I will still continue to write other things in other places.

  35. Lisa Sweet

    Thank you Irene for your journalistic integrity.

  36. Jina RedNest

    Its anti-trump thats what you wrote and you are getting censored and they are trying to do it in a nice way -not!!

  37. Kate Hilsenbeck

    Authoritarianism begins with censoring the press.

  38. Aaron Seaney

    Anger at the fact that they would silence a reporter not the article it self. 😉

  39. Michele Arnold

    A well-written passionate plea for integrity.

  40. Lane Helgerson

    Unfortunately, the Star Herald powers that be are once again moving in a backward direction, giving up quality writing, choosing instead to promote the mundane. So sad! When I was working on my BS in journalism, I was so inspired by the potential to serve society by not only reporting facts, but also posing ideas and viewpoints to promote dialogue. The sad reality is that many small town newspapers are not truly serving as a conduit for viewpoints other than those of their owners/publishers/editors who often serve a different purpose than the person on the street. In a rural area like this it is fairly easy to limit the public’s access to a variety of opinions through this type of control. Thank goodness they can’t control the internet yet! Irene North, they are foolish in not recognizing what a gem they have in you and your ability to not only write thoughtful columns, but your dedication to making sure you have the facts. I will definitely follow your blog!

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