Where I Stand and What I Believe – A Columnist’s Annual Disclosure (2023) | Comment

The new year is the time of the annual disclosure again—a tradition started by former Sentinel columnist Charlie Reese, who argues that if a newspaper columnist is going to spend a whole year telling you what he thinks, he should start by telling you in where he stands.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I think partisanship is responsible for a lot of the ills in this country.

I am a left-leaning independent voter. I believe in public education, balanced budgets, free speech, equal rights, and the US Constitution.

I believe that many politicians who call themselves constitutionalists are full of this sentiment. Especially in this state.

I’m baffled by people who adore politicians. I’m more inspired by preschool teachers, volunteer coaches, and foster parents.

I basically can’t eat anything that doesn’t end up on my shirt or pants. Especially if it involves red sauce.

Luckily, I do most of my laundry at home. My wife does more in general and is a saint who tolerates me. She is also beautiful and kind.

We have two children. Our daughter is a recent college graduate working at a cultural nonprofit in St. Augustine. Our son, a junior, recently posted some disturbing news: He’s a journalism major.

I don’t think he really wanted to be a newspaper writer, but he did enjoy writing and thinking critically. I think both talents would serve anyone well.

We own two houses – the one we live in near downtown Orlando, and our starter home in Seminole County that we currently rent out. We have nice neighbors who gather in cul-de-sacs for potluck and pickleball.

Our income is simple. Almost all of the money comes from our salaries – I work for the Sentinels and my wife works for the Veterans Affairs Department where she works as a pharmacist monitoring controlled substances.

I don’t accept any outside payments, including speaking engagements, mostly because most of the groups I talk to are nonprofits that have better ways to spend their money.

I believe nonprofits are the backbone of our community, and because of the sheer number of low-wage jobs, it’s more strained here than most places.

I know tourism has made Orlando famous. But I don’t think taxpayers need to spend another dime to subsidize this low wage industry.

Likewise, I love sports, but not the taxpayer subsidies for wealthy team owners.

I’m a stubborn tar heel. I like to laugh. And I’m not ashamed to say I love cargo shorts and the Miracle Whip.

I think there are two kinds of people in the world: those who read stories and think: How does this affect me? Those who read the story and think: How does this affect society? I respect the second group more.

I love hearing different opinions. When researching a column, I look for arguments against my thesis. Before I publish anything, I’d rather hear the best possible rebuttal to my premise.

For example, when I wanted to better understand the clamor about critical race theory, I listened to a lengthy interview with a leader who saw CRT as a major threat to society. Hearing his unedited thoughts helped me understand reality—he was full of divisive, fear-mongering bullshit.

I admire vegetarians, but really love chicken wings.

I am a lifelong Presbyterian, former elder and Sunday school teacher, and I get mad when I see people use their faith to divide, discriminate, or demonize.

My father has advanced frontotemporal dementia. It’s a heartbreaking illness, and my mother was a tireless caregiver. I believe caregivers are some of the most underappreciated people on the planet.

I believe that government checks and balances, total control by either party is a recipe for extremism and corruption. Tallahassee is proof.

I enjoy exercising, traveling, playing cards and watching creepy movies. (“Menu” is a recent favorite.)

I hate hypocrisy, liars and lines.

I need to be patient.

I am a firm believer in the power of the arts – to entertain, educate and expand minds.

I believe in listening to scientists and medical experts.

I’m a morning person, usually up at 4:30 most mornings and excited about something I’ve read by 5.

I firmly believe in the mission of newspapers: our responsibility to tell stories that others ignore. I have the pleasure of working with dedicated colleagues who still have difficult careers, many of whom have fled. Also applies to never— once – Tell me what I can or cannot say.

Sometimes I disagree with an editorial in my own newspaper, which I think is a wonderful thing. In a world full of echo chambers, newspapers should remain bastions of freedom, dissent and even conflicting ideas.

I will never apologize for asking people to pay for news. Overseers and storytellers come at a cost—and it would be even more so if we didn’t have them.

I cherish the trust that exists between me and my readers. One of my greatest honors is being asked for advice on charitable giving.

I’m so grateful to have this job — and you’re reading it.

Happy New Year.

smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com

(From left to right) Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell with Orlando Sentinel editor-in-chief Richard Lapchick, Julie Anderson, Orlando Sentinel editor-in-chief Chris Fluke standing in Orlando Central Florida Person of the Year Awards, Florida, Wednesday, March 9, 2022.  (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel)