Go Zags placards available online

Question: I am a huge Gonzaga fan and I was wondering if there was any way I could get one of those "Go Zags" signs I see you guys have. I would absolutely love this. I have tickts for the first and second round of the NCAA tournament and I'm anticipating Gonzaga going to Seattle so I would love to take a sign. Can you please help me out? -- Justin Wammock, Ellensburg, Wash.

Answer: So glad you asked. (It's nice to get an easy question once in awhile.) You can download a "Go Zags" placard on our Web site. You also can download computer desktop wallpaper. Here are some other special online Gonzaga features you might not know about: A Gonzaga sports page; a GU hoops blog; and a GU sports forum. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Why no local cartoonists?

Question: In past years The Spokesman-Review (and Spokane Daily Chronicle) editorial page was home to political cartoons that featured opinions on local and regional issues. Cartoonists such as Shaw McCutcheon and Milt Priggee offered serious opinions with a humorous or satirical twist. Now, all we get are nationally syndicated artists with only national or international subject matter. How about getting a local or regional view?

The cartoons by Jeff Johnson that I see in the Colville Statesman Examiner would be a great addition to The Spokesman-Review on a regular basis. -- Al Gilson, Spokane

Answer: Until a few years ago, The Spokesman-Review had an editorial cartoonist on staff. Like any other business, a newspaper has to decide how best to allocate the personnel it has the budget to hire. When the cartoonist position became vacant, it was decided that we would better serve our readership by relying primarily on syndicated artists and using more of our local payroll on reporting and editing work. We do have a freelance arrangement with Bellingham-based cartoonist Rik Dalvit who focuses on Northwest issues and whose work occasionally appears on our opinion pages. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Why only bad news from Iraq?

Question: I did read your response and I still don't understand why you insist on printing only "bad" news. Yes, we need to know the bad news, but we also need to know what good news there is and I am sure there must be some.

If you only print and highlight the bad side you are continuing the policy that "bad news sells" and I think most people are aware of this and sick of it. We who want the "whole story," would like to make our judgments with all of the facts, not just one side. I suspect that in your journalism classes in college you learned the exhibiting a bias in presenting the news was an improper way of reporting. You are exhibiting a bias by not giving us both the good and bad side of Iraq.

Please try for "fair and balanced" articles so we can get a better grasp of the whole picture. Otherwise your "bias" is obvious. -- Jim Love, Spokane

Answer: For starters, I think we have to agree that we disagree on the amount of "bad" news that we publish. I will argue that we have a wide range of news in our paper and that in fact many of our stories are inspiring and uplifting in a variety of ways.

We regularly report on the success of students, community residents, local businesses, employers and organizations. Of course, we also report on crime, accidents, business failures and the like. It's the nature of what a newspaper does.

You suggest that we have a bias and that we only present one side of the story. Again, I have to disagree. While every story may not cover every angle, we do strive to present a complete and accurate report on the major points of any development.

You urge us to be "fair and balanced." We certainly agree with your point on that. It's a theme that we stress everyday in our newsroom with reporters, editors and photographers. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Follow-up question: I am talking about IRAQ and your imbalance of news. I am glad to see that you print good stories locally. What I don't see is the other side of the IRAQ War. After 10 months over there, I believe, we must have done and are doing some good. Let's have a weekly story about positive events to offset the other six days of bad news. We have lots of local soldiers over there doing good work helping get that country back to a functional level. Let's hear something about that.

I do believe that you get all or most of your international stories off the wire services which means you only print what you are fed. If they are feeding exclusively bad, violent stories and none of the positive ones then they need to get the message. -- Jim Love

Answer: I'm sorry for the confusion. I thought you were talking about news in general. You are right, we do rely on various wire services for our international coverage, as do the majority of newspapers in this country. We will continue to look for a variety of stories that go beyond the daily accounting of explosions and casualties, but I suspect the continuing dangers and the allied response to those issues will continue to dominate the news coming out of Iraq. -- Gary Graham

Why not more Valley news in Valley section?

Question: Two or three weeks ago I responded to a telephone survey regarding the "Valley" compared to the "Valley Voice" sections of the paper. I responded to the questions asked without fully knowing what I was talking about.

I have been reading all the sections of the paper for years without any preconceived expectations as to what these two sections should contain. However, the survey did trigger my awareness, and I have begun to read each section with a new awareness. I have become aware that the "Valley" (I think this used to be called the "Region") has very little to do with "The Valley" and a whole lot to do with the Region. Today's "Valley" had 20 articles and only 3 (15 percent) had anything to do with the Valley. The rest were all regional. The "Valley Voice" on the other hand was close to 100% Valley.

Why don't we return to the "Region" section and dump the "Valley?" "The Valley has little to do with the "Valley." Les Francis, Spokane Valley

Answer: We try to meet the needs of readers who are intensely interested in any number of communities and neighborhoods in Spokane and Kootenai counties and we frequently struggle with decisions on where our stories should appear in the paper.

As you know, we are a large suburban area. Results from the recent survey you mentioned demonstrated to us that the vast majority of our Valley readers want specific coverage of the Valley, but they also don't want us to eliminate Spokane metro stories from their daily paper. Valley editor Jeff Jordan acknowledges that your assessment of the ratio of Valley and Region stories is right on target.

We've improved the content of the Valley Voice sections and the survey results indicate readers have been very pleased with the improvements. We appreciate your interest and we are especially grateful that you agreed to participate in our telephone survey. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Rising rates connected to Avista and Enron?

Question: I wonder if you might explain why no public connection is being made between sharply rising rates for heating, and to stories, a couple of years back, about a former Avista executive having been dismissed over about $100 million in bad Avista investments?

Also, doesn't Enron corruption have considerable bearing on the abovementioned heating rates? -- Philip J. Mulligan, Spokane

Answer: I'm sorry for the delay in answering your question. I wanted to speak with our Business columnist Bert Caldwell, who formerly covered Avista in great detail.

Assuming you have gas heat, the high heating costs are due to a doubling of natural gas costs at the wholesale level, which the utilities commission allows Avista to pass through to its customers. We are now competing against the Midwest for Canadian gas, which means we have to pay more. The company does not make any additional profits from the increases.

If you have electric heat, the shenanigans in Texas did indirectly contribute to the higher rates we pay now, but Avista has also built new generating plants to make sure it does not run out of electricity again in the future. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

How about a Republican quiz?

Question: I just took the campaign 2004 Democratic issues quiz. It was great. I hope you will make one for the Republican issues soon. -- Jackie Woodward

Answer: The issues selected for this quiz are the issues that voters of all parties said were important. The only way to have a quiz for Republican candidates would be if someone challenged President Bush in the GOP primaries. I doubt that will happen.

We plan to put together a similar quiz in the fall so that you can compare the Republican and Democratic candidates side-by-side. And, if a legitimate third-party candidate emerges, we'll include them, too. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Why wasn't analysis story labeled a such?

Question: On Jan. 21, an article was printed on page A6. The headline was, "Bush cautious, but some claims miss mark." Outside of the content of the headline and article, there was no label or other indication from the editors that they represented someone's opinion or "analysis."

Nevertheless, the headline clearly was one person's opinion, and the article was filled with opinionated statements. Bearing in mind that traditional journalism ethics place such headlines and articles on the opinion page of a newspaper, why were these placed on page A6? -- Laurie Rogers, Spokane

Answer: The story in question was a news analysis written by a reporter for the Associated Press. It should have been labeled analysis. Here is what deputy news editor Tad Brooks, who supervises our wire service report, says about the article: "The story compares and contrasts statements President Bush made in his State of the Union address with facts on the ground and asserts some of the president's claims were either not quite true or were misleading because they were made out of context. The hook of the story was that the president was burned in his prior State of the Union speech by falsely claiming Iraq tried to obtain materials for its alleged nuclear weapons program from Africa."

As a news analysis, it was appropriate the run the story in the news columns. But editors agree it should have been properly labeled. -- Steve Smith, editor

Write more about nonprofits

Question: I am a member of several service and fraternal organizations. We always have a hard time getting the message about the good we do in the paper. I have heard this from other nonprofit organizations. I was wondering why you could not have a section in the Monday paper for these type of items. They are not that time sensitive and it might just make the Monday paper worth getting out of the box. It is the smallest paper of the week due to the week end and this could be a great community service that you could do to get the word out about good news. -- Jack Kirsch

Answer: The North, South and Valley Voices sections run a weekly story on a nonprofit organization. It's called Finding a Way and is written by Kandis Carper. All three Voices also run a weekly list called Somebody Needs You, coordinated by the Volunteers of America, which seeks donations for specific people through area agencies.

In addition, the Valley Voice runs a Saturday story every other week on a volunteer. It's called Helping Hands and is written by Treva Lind, a correspondent.

Richard Miller, the editor of the Voices sections, says any fund-raising event is considered as a possible topic for a story, but some are more newsworthy than others. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Why not do a comics survey?

Question: Why doesn't The Spokesman-Review run a survey asking its readers which comics they would like to see? And exactly where does this "positive buzz" come from -- the nation, the community, the S-R offices? Don't misunderstand. We like Berke Breathed and read "Opus" every Sunday. But it is a matter of priorities: it just isn't worth cutting out some other good strip just to make it fit. There are several current strips that we really don't care about and all of your other readers would surely say the same. But it would seem only fair that the subscribers have some say in the comics we see. Is a survey so difficult? Seems to me I remember a couple of "big-city" papers running them. Please consider it. -- Lynn and Eric Walker, Ritzville

Answer: Comics surveys are notoriously unreliable. For one thing, they tend to skew heavily to older readers. For that reason, the classic comics, including the old soaps, will always score near the top in terms of positives. Newer, edgier strips will score near the bottom on positives and near the top on negatives. For example, in nearly every comics survey of recent years, "Dilbert" has recorded relatively heavy negatives in relation to positives. But how can any contemporary newspaper not run "Dilbert?"

By survey standards, we would not be running "Doonesbury" (or "Mallard Filmore" daily). Yet that strip will be the most important strip to a great many readers. A well-intentioned decision earlier this year to drop "Doonesbury" and Mallard" from the daily paper produced a relatively large number of subscription cancellations. No one has dropped the paper to date because we dropped "Piranha Club" on Sundays to make froom for "Opus."

I stopped trusting comics surveys some years back when, at another paper, survey results persuaded me that "Cathy" had run its course. My decision to cancel resulted in more than 3,000 calls and letters and an admonition from Oprah Winfrey.

In the end, the best course is to trust the what we hear from folks through e-mails, phone calls and letters, to follow national and industry trends and to try to respect all of our readers, not just the loudest few. As I've said before, it is an imperfect process, not a science. And there is no way to satisfy everyone.

As a journalist, I've always found a certain irony in the fact that no decision we make -- from determining front page content to endorsing presidential candidates -- generates as much response, passion and anger as comics decisions. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why support tax hike for STA?

Question: Here we go again. This morning's paper states that the STA has more money than they did last month and now can maybe not cut as much as planned. If this keeps up, no one will believe anything you or the STA says. Why is so tough to figure out exactly how much money is available? They should know what the sources are and how much comes from each ahouldn't they?

If you get your way and a .3% sales tax gets on the ballot and is passed, won't the STA have several million more than they need? -- Wayne Lythgoe, Colbert

Answer: Like the rest of the public, our editorial board keeps an eye on developments such as these and comments accordingly. Up to this point, our editorial position on STA and its budget difficulties has been essentially as follows: STA has made greatly needed improvements in its management structure and approach. But it needs to go further by adding private-sector board members who would bring business expertise not reflectected in the current board comprised entirely of elected officials. Such a change, however, would require legislative action, something that can't be accomplished quickly.

In the meantime, public transportation is one of those elements that makes a community whole -- in the eyes of the residents as well as the eyes of businesses that may be thinking of expanding here. We would do ourselves great harm to allow public transit to be slashed to such insufficient levels. As of right now (Tuesday morning) the editorial board has not reviewed the latest developments. However, it's significant to note that the additional funding is due in part to sales tax receipts coming in at higher levels than had been forecast. Forecasts can err in both directions, of course, so we don't know what might happen next year. It's also significant that even with the revised assessment, the result would still be a 38 percent reduction in service. That's down from an estimated 50 percent, but it's still a big impact. If STA puts another sales tax proposal on the ballot, as we have supported, it still would have to be defended to the voters who make the final decision. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Where's the staff directory?

Question: I was wondering why there isn't a list on your left side of your site for a list of your writing staff and their e-mail addresses. I thought maybe because of confidential, but then again at the end of the articles is the writers e-mail address. So why isn't there a list on the site for those who forgot to write down the e-mail address? -- Cis Gors, Kootenai, Idaho

Answer: What you want is just a couple of clicks away. Space on the cover page is precious real estate, so we can't list everything there. Near the bottom left is a link to "Contact us."
On that page is a link to "Newsroom staff directory." Once there, you can browse by department within the newsroom, or search for a specific staffer by their last name. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

You can get Saturday stocks

Question: We purchase your paper most days. We follow the stock market, and check stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange as well as mutual fund prices. However, it is beyond us why a newspaper would publish this information Tuesday thru Friday, but not publish Friday's market on Saturday. We cannot subscibe to your paper because we find we have to go out a purchase a different Saturday paper to get what we want. Can you please expain why you do not publish the market prices on Saturday for the end of the week? -- Arvey Hunt, Post Falls

Answer: Interest in the weekly market wrapup is limited. For that reason we don't present that information in the main paper. However, any subscriber may request free delivery (with their Saturday paper) of a special market section that includes the information you want. You can get that section simply by calling (509) 747-4422. About 15,000 subscribers currently receive the section. -- Steve Smith, editor

That's opinion, not news

Question: Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed Saturday, but having slogged all the way through Ms. Nappi's article on candidate wives, I wonder why you didn't place it on the editorial page or back with Doonesbury and Mallard? Her last two sentences are a blatant endorsement of Hillary Clinton! That's an editorial, position, not news!

And, as a supposedly shining light for literary and grammatical correctness, quit relying on spell check, i.e., the caption on the Looking Back photo of Spokane's snow in 1969..."lead". Didn't you mean "led"? What ever happened to proofreaders? -- Frank Schoonover, Spokane

Answer: Rebecca Nappi is one of The Spokesman-Review's news columnists. As a columnist, she is allowed to express a point of view, something reporters are not allowed to do in news articles. You'd discover similarly situated columnists at most other papers have the same freedom.

Because readers still are cofnused by the columnists' role, we've talked about doing a better job labeling their columns as "opinion" or "commentary." Your note serves as a reminder that we need to move ahead with that.

Newspapers really don't have proofreaders anymore, at least not in the way most people would think of them. We have copy editors who edit stories and captions and write headlines and design pages, etc. They do use computer systems that provide a spell checker. It is a great tool, but as the writer notes, terribly overused. We need to do a better job proof reading our pages in order to avoid such embarrassing mistakes. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why the over-sized comic?

Question: Why in the world are you running a double-size comic just because the cartoonist's ego insists on it? You certainly don't run the first two panels of the Sunday Doonesbury strip. We have to see those on the Web. Same with the award-nominated "Pearls Before Swine" and the daily "Get Fuzzy" (winner of this year's Reuben award for Best Comic). Why not have a survey of your readers' favorites (with suggestions for replacements) and then run them? We're certainly tired of "Family Circle" and "Garfield." And thanks for dumping "Piranha Club"! -- Lynn and Eric Walker, Ritzville

Answer: Well, it's clear we can't answer this question often enough for loyal comics readers. We felt "Opus" was good enough -- and would be popular enough -- to justify the contractual limitations which dictate its size on the page. I think it has proven to be everything we hoped. The positive buzz is terrific. Every comic has its fans and its detractors. The writers would like us to dump "Garfield" and "Family Circus." But if I did that, there are folks in town who'd want to run me out of town on a rail.

Frankly, there's no way to satisfy everyone. We just do our best to offer a wide variety of comics that might interest as many people as possible. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why bash only Democrats?

Question: I want to convey my disgust with your decision to post video of Howard Dean on the S-R home page. As a regular viewer of the S-R Web site, this is the first time I ever recall you posting video on the site. Could you please tell me if you've ever done it before? And if so, what was it? I'd also like to know if you will post one of George W. Bush's more famous utterances on your site - or is this an honor you only reserve for the bashing of Democrats? -- Mike Kress, Spokane

Answer: You raise an interesting point. Here's why we did it: newspaper readers who had not seen the video (this includes me, personally) had no way to judge whether the speech was a big deal or was blown out of proportion. I, personally, heard people say the speech made Dean "unelectable" and that "he's toast."

So we borrowed a video of the speech from KHQ-TV so that our readers can simply judge for themselves. This seems like a perfectly legitimate use of video on our Web site. And we would do it again in any similar circumstance when the printed word just does not convey the crucial information to allow people to make up their own minds about an important issue. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Why the Kucinich news blackout?

Question: Why is there a Kucinich news blackout? I am very concerned about the lack of coverage of the Kucinich campaign. I believe that it is the press’ responsibility to cover all the candidates. I am finding several articles in the news that mention every democratic candidate except Kucinich. Candidates that are not running at all any more are getting more press than Kucinich. Is this because Kucinich is the only candidate on record that voted against the attack on Iraq and wars help ratings? -- Krista Ranta, Redmond, Wash.

Answer: There is no such thing as a "news blackout" for anyone, especially not a presidential candidate. In fact, Kucinich was mentioned prominently in today's Spokesman-Review story by staff writer Jim Camden, who's traveling with the candidates in New Hampshire: "A drummer wearing a horned Viking helmet led supporters of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a conga line into the chanting masses..."

The Spokesman-Review, like most media organizations, has from the very beginning of the Democratic campaign, attempted to treat all nine (now seven) legitimate candidates fairly. Frequently throughout the campaign, for example, we will summarize the positions of all candidates on significant issues.

The news of the day, however, often dictates that John Kerry, or Howard Dean, or Dick Gephardt will get the headlines. The challenge for the Kucinich campaign, then, would be to earn those headlines. In the current news climate, by the way, a strong anti-war stance might actually make him more likely, rather than less likely, to earn those headlines. -- Ken Sands, managing editor on online and new media

What does 'boatraced' mean?

Question: On Jan. 17 sports writer Steve Bergum wrote an article about the Gonzaga basketball game the night before. He used the term "boatraced." I called him and left word on his voicemail regarding the meaning of the term the following morning. As of this date and time, Jan 23, 8:50 a.m., there has been no response. -- Reg Morgan, Coulee Dam

Answer: "Boatraced" is an old phrase that means "getting swamped." Sometimes our more veteran sportswriters can't resist a throwback phrase. As for not responding promptly to your question, Steve travels a lot and many days works from home. He should have called back, but has not checked his phone mail recently. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

What about Colville sports teams?

Question: Why don't Colville high school sports get the coverage like teams in the Greater Spokane League? I know it's a Spokane paper, but we also buy it in Colville. -- Johnny C. Jones, Otis Orchards

Answer: We have a limited number of resources and travelling to Colville to cover the Indians is difficult. We do, however, report on every varsity event that is called in -- always with the stats of the event and often with a writeup in the area roundup of high school events. We also follow all of the teams in our coverage area when they play in a regional or state tournament. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

Carrier gives 'darn good service'

Comment: After being battered from pillar to post, week after week I have a compliment. (surprise, surprise). We live 90+ miles, 2 hours west, of Spokane. Virtually every morning we have "the Good Paper" on our doorstep between 6-7 a.m. except when the delivery vehicle breaks down. I think that's darn good service. -- Reg Morgan Coulee Dam

Answer: What a wonderful message to receive on a Friday morning. We'll be sure to pass Mr. Morgan's service compliment along to our circulation department. Spokesman-Review news staffers are genuinely impressed by the hard work and dedication of our circulation staff and delivery teams. Getting more than 100,000 papers into the right hands, on time, every morning (119,000 Saturdays, 132,000 Sundays) is an enormous logistical challenge.

Success begins with a newsroom that consistently meets its production deadlines, continues with a press and distribution team that gets the papers off the presses with amazing efficiency and ends with dedicated drivers and delivery crews who don't let bad weather get in their way. It's a daily miracle, or at least that's how we view it from inside the newspaper. -- Steve Smith, editor

Is the paper liberal-leaning?

Question: With regard to your reply to Roy Tiefisher's letter asking that you be fair and balanced (not liberal): I'll accept your explanation as to why most of the editorial page cartoons tend to be liberal-leaning. And I agree that you have "a pretty good conservative-liberal balance with respect to columnists."

It was easy for you to disagree with his extreme assertion that your paper is going in a "far-left liberal direction," but do you disagree that the paper is liberal-leaning? You didn't answer his very relevant question--are any of your editors conservative?

I think Mr. Tiefisher's most valid complaint was with respect to the anti-conservative headlines that are used, and sometimes the articles don't even support the headlines! Do you write the headlines, or do they come from the liberal news sources that you cited in your reply? In either case, if S-R's goal truly is "to present a fair, accurate and comprehensive report on local, national and world events," you should be more careful about the slant that is given by the headlines. -- Dave Vasquez, Veradale

Answer: You raised several questions. I'll take the easy one first. Our staff writes all the headlines that appear in the paper. We have a team of copy editors and section editors whose skills are in editing stories for punctuation, grammar, style and accuracy. Those same copy editors also write the headlines.

I don't view our paper as "liberal leaning." I know that some of our editors are conservative, some are liberal and some are what would be considered middle-of-the-road. But honestly, we don't use someone's political views as a litmus test for employment or assignment in the newsroom. Our editorial page staff reflects a diversity of opinion and thought, as does the newsroom staff. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

My press release was ignored

Question: I work for a small non-profit organization. We provide permanent housing for chronically mentally ill (CMI) folks capable of semi-independent living who were homeless at the time they came into our program. We recently received an operating and maintenance grant from the State of Washington for $6,000 for the next 40 years. We were one of only two organizations on the east side of the state to get an award. The state sent out a press release and I submitted a press release and, to the best of my knowledge it was ignored.

What do small groups need to do to get some coverage in the paper? I cannot say we have never received coverage - we did get about two paragraphs recently when we had a fire that damaged seven of the nine units at our apartment house. We are still trying to recover financially from the fire. It was my hope that the press release would help us find some other folks who would like to help us. If you are doing good things in the community, how do you get support from the S-R? -- Larry Griffith, Executive Director Salem Arms, Spokane

Answer: We receive literally hundreds of press releases each week from a variety of sources and organizations, so it is very difficult for us to read and publish every piece of information we receive in the normal course of business. Frankly, given the volume of press releases we receive in the mail, by fax or email, it is quite possible that yours was simply lost in the shuffle. If you would like to send me a copy of it, I'll be happy to ask our editors to consider it for publication. If you like, you can send it via email to garyg@spokesman.com., or you can fax it to my attention at 459-5482. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

What about that big accident?

Question: What happened on the morning of January 13th? You probably know of a 23-car accident on Interstate 90 near Ryegrass, but what else was going on? Did you know all three state patrol units responded to this accident from Cle Elum, over 30 miles away? Is not the state patrol to patrol, looking for black ice conditions, the supposed cause of this accident?

Studded tires are the only tires that hold the road during black ice conditions. Proof of that happened when police and ambulances, no longer equipped with studded tires, had to use the shoulder of the road to even reach the scene of this accident. They were also considering wasting time putting on chains! And the Department of Transportation still claims the ban they seek on studded tires is about safety?

If you listen to the DOT, or they succeed in getting their ban, you will hit the next patch of black ice without studded tires and lose complete control. Which, as any accident investigator will tell you, is far more deadly, than the damage caused to roadways by studded tires. -- Jason Hartney, Ellensburg

Answer:You've raised some good questions about the Interstate 90 accident near Ryegrass. On Jan. 14, we published a story about the accident that was provided to us by the Associated Press. The story did not address all the issues you raised and now, given the passage of time, it's unlikely that we would be able to report definitively on the events of that morning. But we will keep your questions in mind as we report on any changes in rules regarding studded tires and chains. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Help me choose a candidate

Question: I feel like I have a pretty good idea of where I stand politically, but sometimes I am not sure. With the election coming up, could you do us all a favor and make up a question-and-answer test that would tell us whether we are Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Progressive and all the other categories? Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian etc. Then tell us which candidate best fits our ideals? -- Judy Layton, Spokane

Answer: I question the value of such labels, because the views of individuals almost never seem to fit neatly into one category. However, we are in the process of putting together a "blind" question-and-answer quiz of the seven remaining Democratic presidential candidates. Here's how it will work: you see seven statements on each of 10 key questions -- with no names attached. Pick any or all with which you agree. At the end, each candidate will receive a letter grade -- A, B, C, D or F -- based on how often they agreed with your views.

This is the same kind of quiz we used last fall in the Spokane mayor's and council president races. We plan to put together similar quizzes this fall to compare candidates in races from the local to national level. We hope you find it an interesting and worthwhile experience. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Where's the shootout story?

Question: I was wondering why the drug bust and shootout at the Browne's Addition Rosauers and on First Avenue was not covered on your Web site. This was all over the TV news last night, but there was no mention in the paper. At about 8 a.m., when I first looked at the morning headlines, it wasn't there. -- Tim Haight, Spokane

Answer: First of all, the story was prominenly dispalyed, with a photo, in the print version of today's newspaper. And, the electronic version of the story was on our Web site. It just wasn't prominently displayed. That's because our antiquated computer system that posts the stories to our Web site overnight doesn't always do a good job of placing the most important stories in prominent positions.

That's why, beginning at about 7 a.m. every day, we manually update the site, fixing all of the little (and sometimes big) problems that the computer system causes. Usually, the whole site is updated by 10 a.m. The good news is that we're getting a new computer system installed, and this will be an issue for only three more months. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Humor those of us who don't share your political views

Question: Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my question, "Why do you exclude stories of progress in Iraq from your daily news coverage?" I believe your response reveals a deep seated bias against the Iraq war and the Bush administration. In defending your coverage, you state, "I think the real issue is trying to separate the truth of events on the ground from political spin." It seems that positive news about progress in Iraq is viewed by you as "political spin" by the Bush administration, while any negative news of more casualties or setbacks is "news" or "the truth of events."

Why don't you at least humor those of us who don't share your policital views with a "News Trashbin" section every Saturday? Your lead-in for the section could say something like this: "The articles appearing below are pieces from newswires and other sources during the past week which we don't like due to their political spin or viewpoint, bias, lack of political correctness, tendency to make Republicans look good, authors we don't like, or use of words we don't understand. These articles are printed here for your entertainment only, and to placate those who don't like our natural editorial biases. WE TOTALLY DISAPPROVE OF THESE ARTICLES (This page as been treated with an environmentally friendly waterproof coating for use as the liner of kitty litter boxes and bird cages.) The Editor." -- Scott Schmidtman, Spokane

Answer: The writer and I will have to agree to disagree. I was struck today by the remarks of Don Wycliff, ombudsman for The Chicago Tribune, responding to a similar complaint from a Tribune reader. This is what Wycliff said:

"The fact is that the people demanding more 'good news' from Iraq are themselves pursuing a political agenda and attempting to draft the news media into the effort. They want to shift the focus from safety and security in a still-unstable Iraq to sewers and streetlights. (Not unlike shifting the focus from non-existent weapons of mass destruction to 'weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.')

"The United States has 120,000-plus members of its armed forces in Iraq. They are being shot at, road-bombed, truck-bombed, mortared and otherwise attacked not because they're trying to build schools, generate electricity and fix sewer lines, but because they are American soldiers.

"The Tribune--and most of the rest of the American news media, I suspect--continue to focus on safety and security issues because the lives and safety of our fellow citizens in uniform are most Americans' first concern."

I couldn't agree more. Thanks to Mr. Wycliff for saying it so much more effectively. -- Steve Smith, editor

Return my evil rat king!

Question: I would like to know when (if) Pearls Before Swine will be back, as it's the funniest strip since Calvin and Hobbes! Most of the regulars have gone stale. Please return my little pig and my evil rat king! -- Beth, Spokane

Answer: At this time there are no plans to bring back "Pearls Before Swine." We realize the strip has its fans, but not in sufficient numbers to bump another strip just now. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why don't I get a discount?

Question: Just curious! Why do the weekend-only subscribers get a "gift" in the form of a free paper on Martin Luther King's birthday, while we seven-day-a-week supporters get nothing extra? To be fair, it would seem appropriate that we receive a 50-cent credit on our next bill. -- Dale Wile, Sandpoint

Answer: The newspaper is allowed by the national Audit Bureau of Circulation to establish a small number of so-called "bonus days" on which Sunday subscribers are also provided the daily paper. Generally, those days follow or precede holidays when large numbers of readers are at home much as they would be on a Sunday.

Seven-day subscribers get the benefit of a subscription price substantialy below newsstand price. They are in no-way penalized by the very few bonus days allowed. -- Steve Smith, editor

Where's the rest of that story?

Question: In Sunday's Spokesman-Review, there was a story about the BIA agent on the Spokane reservation. When I turned to page 10 to finish reading the story, it was nowhere to be found.

Also, sometimes I'll read the S-R and find the same story (often a wire story) repeated in the same edition of the paper, usually with a different headline. How can these things happen? -- Al Gilson, Spokane

Answer: Mistakes happen, although we do everything we can to avoid them. The failure to include a story continuation (what we call a "jump" certainly is an embarrassing error. The root cause is technical/mechanical, compounded by human error. The position occupied by the BIA story was filled by a different story in the Idaho edition which has earlier deadlines. The front page is then "made over" for the city and Valley editions. In dropping in the new story -- the BIA story -- editors failed to remake the page where the jump would be placed. Our copy desk reports staffers were distracted by a breaking news bulletin out of Iraq on the devastating bombing there. While working on that story, they forgot about the BIA jump. The mistake was caught later in the night by a proof reader, but too late to fix the problem.

We're in the process of installing a new newsroom computer system and the editors involved tell me the system will prevent similar mistakes in the future, although no one is so foolish as to suggest it can't happen again.

As to your second question, there are times when the same or similar wire stories will run in the same paper or on consecutive days. Again, this isn't by design. Many editors work on different sections of the paper. And we produce three different editions every day. In managing the thousands of wire stories that come our way, there are times when editors will duplicate one another without realizing the mistake. Again, we have safeguards to avoid such problems. But newspapering is a human endeavor and try as we might, we will have great trouble achieving perfection every day. -- Steve Smith, editor

Don't focus solely on body counts in Iraq

Question: It is laudable to honor our fallen troops with body counts. It would be just as laudable to honor the other 135,000 living, breathing troops doing tremendously good work in Iraq by covering more of what they do to bring stability to Iraq. It looks like printing just body counts on the front page means you're not willing to do the work of finding out what the whole picture is over there. This brings discredit upon the journalism profession. The media was enthusiastic about covering "Moses Lake doctor shipping out to gulf at age 62" back in March '03. You should go find him now that he's back and listen to his stories. And put it on the front page. -- Sue Frankovich, U.S. Navy Reserve Nurse Corps, Spokane

Answer: As I've said before, I think we've been fair in selecting wire and syndicate stories that accurately portray the range of issues and events in Iraq. Meanwhile, our armed forces continue to suffer losses, sometimes in bunches. Those stories will continue to make Page 1 in The Spokesman-Review as no service member's death should go unremarked or become so routine as to be relegated to the back of the paper. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why no 'search' function on Web site?

Question: How about a search field on the Web site? I was trying to find the article on the Spokane Tribe/BIA police scandal (continuation lost in paper - where are the proof readers?). Can't find the article online, to search a person has to click on various buttons and read through each. -- Karl Moldrem, Davenport

Answer: When our site was initially created nine years ago, we weren't on servers and/or didn't have the software to offer this capability. It's one of the shortcomings of our site that we put off knowing our new newspaper publishing computer system would give us a chance to gather the information in a searchable database. That's coming in a few months. Meanwhile, if you want to find a story in today's newspaper, go to the cover page and in the middle column you'll find "complete list of today's headlines." Once you get to that page, press the "CTRL" key and the "F" key at the same time and a "find" function will allow you to search that page for a keyword that you know is in the headline or first sentence of the story. I know it's a couple of extra steps, but it's a pretty effective method of finding the correct story. And, FYI, the story you're looking for was reprinted Monday in full. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Wants more info about chronic wasting/mad cow

Question: In the Jan. 18 "Outdoors" section, the story about wolves states that "some researchers say there's a chance that wolves could be a savior to big-game herds by controlling the spread of chronic wasting disease... wolves can remove infected individuals and clean up carcasses that could transmit the disease."

If such a scenario happens can chronic wasting disease (CWD) be transmitted to the wolves? Any research being done on this? Hunters want hunting rights on elk and oppose the growth of the grey wolf population. Can humans acquire CWD from eating CWD-infected elk which apparently is increasing in deer and elk herds and is not uncommon?

On Jan. 19, in "Wasting disease is rare in region," it says people are confused "about several types of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)" and people "have heard rumors of area residents dying from the type of /CJD related to eating infected beef." Is the type of CWD in deer and elk herds related to CJD from infected beef? If it is, then what is the risk factor for hunters and their families and friends eating CWD-infected wild game? -- Pamela Small, Spokane

Answer: The reader is asking the same questions that researchers are asking. As we have reported in several stories, there has never been a documented case of chronic wasting disease crossing the link to cause a human form of the disease. Researchers are more actively looking into the possibilities.

Similarly, I haven't read of any case in which CWD has linked to wolves or animals other than deer or elk. I'm sure the wide range of researchers interviewed in this story would have addressed that issue if there had been a known relationship.

Wildlife agencies currently are testing deer and elk and are making it easier for hunters to have their animals checked. while there is little risk of a human coming in contact with CWD from elk or deer in this region, agency officials certainly make the obvious warning to avoid eating the meat of animals that appeared sickly in any way. They also recommend that hunter avoid coming in contact with the brain or spinal column of the animals as an added precaution. -- Rich Landers, outdoors editor

Where was the 'dirty bomb' story?

Question: I have a question about a story that happened, and I understand, was on the news wires but which I haven't read in any paper. Can you explain why the S-R didn't report this? On or about Dec. 5, 2003 in Tyler, Texas, a man who is member of a white supremacist groups was arrested for having a "dirty bomb" and means to detonate same. Now, that seems like a news item to me. I also know for sure that if the man was a Muslim or Arab, John Ashcroft himself would have held press conferences that would have been in every paper.

Can you explain what happened so that no papers reported this story?
I heard the district attorney of Tyler, Texas, say that the story was put on the news wires. Who decided not to report this story? And why? -- Cynthia Nichols, Moscow, Idaho

Answer: A search of The Spokesman-Review archives and the Associated Press files turned up nothing about a dirty bomb associated with Tyler, Texas. There is, however, the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member and suspected terrorist, who is being held on suspicion of plotting to detonate a "dirty" radioactive bomb. This case was in the news on Dec. 4 and continues to make news because of legal questions surrounding the rights of those detained as enemy combatants in the United States.

If we had received a story as you describe, we certainly would have run it. You're right, this would be a big story that our readers would be vitally interested in. -- Jim Kresse, news editor

Update: In most cases, a "dirty bomb" refers to a small device with radioactive material. Thanks to more information provided by Cynthia Nichols and from Bill McCrory of Coeur d'Alene, I was able to track down a story in the Dallas Morning News about a cyanide bomb.

Nichols states correctly that: "The story is mostly unknown to almost anyone outside of Texas because the national media has all but ignored the story." I can't explain why it did not receive more attention, except that it must have been the collective wisdom of news editors that this story did not rise to the national level. Right or wrong, those kinds of decisions are made every day. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Where can I tell my brother's story?

Question: Something has recently touched me very deeply and I want to inquire. My brother, born and raised in Spokane, a 1984 graduate of East Valley High School, is leaving for Iraq tomorrow. He is a staff sargeant and will be heading up his squad; a group with an average age of probably 21. He will miss his 20-year high school reunion this year (he missed his 10-year reunion as he was deployed to Honduras in 1994). He has served time in Desert Storm, Somalia, as well as Honduras, Korea and Cuba. He is a family man with a daughter, two sons and a granddaughter (all at the age of 38!). I would love to write, or have written, some kind of feature on him. He is amazing and if anyone is going to go to Iraq, lead a group of young men and women successfully, with confidence, great leadership and a fearless, courageous demeanor, it is him. Is this something you could look into? If not, maybe a "letter to the editor" would have to suffice. I am just so proud of him. -- Jill Surby, Spokane

Answer 1: I can understand why you are proud of your brother. As editorial page editor, I have no role in deciding whether to write an article about someone in the community. However, I can respond to your inquiry regarding a letter to the editor. Our letters page is intended to be a forum where readers can talk about issues that are important in our community. Certainly the war in Iraq is such an issue. Ordinarily, however, we would expect a letter to convey a message that goes beyond an expression of pride in a loved one. Honorable as that sentiment is, it's not really the purpose for which that public forum is designed. If you choose to submit a letter, therefore, I would recommend that you discuss the situation not just in terms of your his relationship to you, but also his relationship to the community and the nation, as a citizen. Letters should be no longer than 200 words and should be submitted to editor@spokesman.com. Be sure to include your name and a daytime telephone number where a member of our staff can contact you for verification. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Answer 2: I appreciate your heartfelt tribute to your brother. We've heard from many families in the region who have loved ones in Iraq. We will continue to cover developments over there, and look for stories to tell of local families who've been touched by the conflict. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Whatever happened to missing brothers?

Question: There was an article two weeks ago about two brothers who were missing after leaving from their parents' home in Sandpoint and returning to Bozeman. Were they ever found? The weather was so bad then, I worried that they might have gone off the road somewhere. (I have two sons roughly the same ages, so this has stuck in my mind.) -- Ann Fennessy, Spokane

Answer: On Monday, Jan. 5, the day after the first story was printed, we reported that the two men had been found. The parents of the two men called the Bonner County Sheriff's Office to say they had been in contact with the brothers, but gave no other information about their journey. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Are you open to submissions from local writers?

Question: I was wondering if the Spokesman-Review was open to local writers. I have a "story" (more like a tirade) that I'd like to pass on for you to look at. It's intended to be humorous and not so politically correct but thought you might enjoy it. -- Merri Kennedy, Spokane

Answer 1: We not only are open to local writers on the opinion pages, we're eager to hear from them. Besides the familiar letters to the editor feature, we frequently publish guest columns of up to about 850 words on the kind of public-policy concerns normally addressed on opinion pages. We prefer comment on local and regional issues. It's always best to obtain a copy of our guidelines, which are available by mail or e-mail. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Answer 2: We work with local freelance writers who have solid writing and reporting skills. Many of them were journalism majors in college and have newspaper experience, while others bring expertise in a particular area, such as classical music or gardening. We accept queries for feature stories that can appear on our various theme pages, such as Homes, Food and Families, as well as occasional general assignment features. -- Jamie Tobias Neely, features editor

Put reviews back in IN Life section

Question: About a year ago or so ago, the S-R stopped printing theater, music, dance and other performing arts reviews in the IN Life section and apparently started printing them in the "zoned" news sections (Handle, Valley, etc.). We in North Idaho, us "Handle" folks, now do not get reviews of shows, symphony concerts, etc., that take place in Spokane.

And since the only performing arts organization that is regularly reviewed by the S-R is our professional summer stock company, the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, we Idahoans are now getting no reviews of anything for nine months out of the year. Who made this decision? Believe it or not, many of your North Idaho subscribers are intested in regional culture, and many of us regularly attend performing arts events at The Met, the Opera House, Interplayers, Spokane Civic, CenterStage, and all the other venues in your fair city. What gives? An answer would be appreciated, and I'm sure an apology is in order for all the performing arts organizations in Spokane who are no doubt losing business because we are not as informed as we should be about their offerings. -- Jim Speirs, Coeur d'Alene

Answer: We used to run reviews in IN Life, but because of our deadlines, they often appeared several days after an event. Shortly after Steve Smith came here, he asked that reviews run in the next day's paper whenever possible. As a result, they started running in the local news sections, since those have "live" deadlines. The Idaho problem is that since these generally are evening events, the reviews aren't done in time for Idaho edition deadlines. They are supposed to be picked up for Idaho editions the following day (two days after the event), but that often is overlooked for some reason. I used to get calls from Idaho readers about missing out on symphony reviews, and I talked to our copy desk about it and thought it was working better these days, but apparently not, given your e-mail. -- Rick Bonino, arts and entertainment editor

Update: Thank you for your reply. The new policy still doesn't make any sense. On "one night" events (most concerts and symphony performances), it doesn't really matter whether the review comes out the next day, three days later, or the following week. From the point of view of the performing organization, it wouldn't help their box office anyway and all this does is entirely eliminate the coverage they deserve (and potential future audience). In the case of theater reviews, most shows run for two or more weekends and again, it doesn't matter that the review comes out a few days after the opening. What matters is that it is not being read at all and these organizations lose audience, coverage, etc. for the rest of their run. -- Jim Speirs, Coeur d'Alene

Whatever happens to lottery winners?

Suggestion: One of the stories I would like to see followed up is a couple of the mega-bucks lottery winners -- say a year or two later. I know this isn't anything The Spokesman-Review would ordinarily do unless there was a big winner in the area. I suspect it's not always roses and skittles, but I'd really like to know. I've never read about any winner choosing the full amount over a period of 20 years, which, I think is the wisest decision, but since I never
buy lottery tickets, I'll never know unless someone does a human interest
story some time. -- Joan Harris, Pullman

Answer: Thank you for your story suggestion. This is certainly an idea I'd be happy to discuss with other editors. It may be an idea for the City Desk, but it may also interest the Features Department. I agree with you that there is great interest in what happens to people who win lottery prizes. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Why do you collapse to criticism from conservatives?

Question: I was sorely disappointed when The Spokesman-Review did away with the Golden Pen Award after receiving some complaints from right-wing citizens who hate free speech. I was also disappointed when the paper added a new column by a right-wing Christian, as if our media is not already dominated by conservatives. Stand your ground!

A few months ago, I sent in a letter to the editor suggesting that Jesus might have been a homosexual. Later, the paper published a dozen letters attacking my sexuality and suggesting I cannot be a Christian. (I am, in fact, an ordained minister with a Ph.D. in theology from one of the top divinity schools in the country. I could not even defend myself or my argument because of your policy about limited submissons.)

Why is it that the S-R was willing to let me endure such deeply personal attacks, yet the editorial staff of the same paper collapses so readily when it is attacked by conservatives? It's a question that I find rather haunting. -- Rev. Dr. Iris St. John, Spokane

Answer: Although the timing may have made it appear otherwise, the decision about the Golden Pen was made months before the uproar arose over a controversial honoree. In fact, that was not the first time the editorial board's choice of a Golden Pen winner had prompted harsh responses from readers who disagreed with the decision. The actual reason for discontinuing the feature is that we simply did not have the time to give such a process the attention it deserves. In fact, what was being presented to readers as a thoughtful, deliberative assessment of the relative quality of 100 or more letters published each week had devolved into a somewhat cursory process. It was decided that our time and energy would be better spent doing what we exist to do -- present a daily package of commentary on important issues facing our readers -- and leave it to the public to judge for themselves which letters are more meritorious than others.

As for the response that sometimes is received to controversial letters, that, I'm afraid, is the nature of an open public forum. While I personally dislike vituperative exchanges between letter writers, I believe we have a duty to embrace a relatively liberal policy of allowing the public conversation to set its own limits -- within reason, of course. Once we take it upon ourselves to sanitize the discussion, we venture onto a path that leads inevitably to the shutdown of the free-flowing expression of diverse opinions that is at the heart of a democratic society.

The frequency rule that limits writers to one letter a month -- and thus discourages back-and-forth debates between individual writers -- also exists to assure a measure of diversity in the voices presented on the letters page. --Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Follow-up: Readers interested in engaging in more direct, back-and-forth debates with other readers can visit our online forums, where debate often is quite spirited -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Someone trying to shoot down aircraft at Spokane airport?

Question: I have been told by a reliable sorce that an airliner was shot at with a surface-to-air missle at the Spokane airport. Why the cover up? -- James Harris, Athol, Idaho

Answer: According to the airport police chief, there was no surface-to-air missile fired at the Spokane airport. That is certainly a news event we would have heard about and reported immediately. I can tell you that in 1997, some teenage boys shot a hobby rocket into the air as a plane was taking off. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Where's the park board coverage?

Question: Why has there been no mention of the recent Park and Recreation Board meeting concerning the potential softball complex near Joe Albi Stadium? It has been decided that the softball complex will have a beer and wine garden to help it pay for itself. In the "north option", this complex would be going in right next to a youth sports facility. This is usually something the paper would cover and I know there was a reporter there. Was this coverage stifled?

Why wouldn't The Spokesman-Review jump up and ask the question as to why we need an alcohol serving softball complex over doing something decent with that land, like converting it to full youth sports complex that could be used by more than just SYSA. I would think the paper would want to ask questions about this softball facility. People deserve to know exactly what is going into their local neighborhoods. -- Daniel Peck, Spokane

Answer: We have covered this issue in the Voices, the neighborhood specific sections that come with your Thursday paper. There will be a story on this topic in Thursday's North Voice, so be sure and look for it. I believe you're quoted in the story. A vote by the Park Board is expected next month and we'll plan to report on that, as well. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Why so much bus reporting and bias?

Question: I've read several of the online stories concerning the STA and I've sent feedback that has met all of the criteria required by The Spokesman-Review. My feedback contains no obscenities, nor libelous statements, etc. However, since the person writing these articles is very pro STA, my feedback is virtually never published. I have been convinced for years that the S-R is a biased paper with the full interntion of shaping and swaying the way people think, and behaviors like I just described only solidify my position.

There are numerous topics where the S-R is clearly biased on a position. Support/lack of support for the mayor, the parking garage, the president (what party he's in does make a difference), schools, are just a few topics to which the S-R expresses their preferences. Sometimes it's blatant, sometimes it's subtle. This is harly decent reporting; why not just report the facts, all of them, and no holding back, and let the readers decide for themselves? I would like to know who reviews online reader feedback and makes the decision to post or to not post the feedback.

Also, we've heard all about the STA for months now and the same topics concerning the STA are being repeated in the paper. It's time to move on to more important news and such. But since the S-R, and in particular, one reporter are pro bus, I suppose we can look forward seeing the same subjects repeated over and over in a desparate attempt to sway the voters into buying into it. We voted NO on it and that should be enough. Please drop the subject and find some new news. -- Bill Anderson

Answer (part 1): I checked our list of replies submitted to stories online, and quickly found this comment and this comment from you about the most recent STA stories. I can't trace what may have happened in the more distant past. However, Larry Reisnouer, who checks over the story replies daily to make sure they fit simple criteria, says he doesn't recognize your e-mail address or remember deleting any comments about STA. In fact, Larry doesn't edit for content. He just tries to make sure replies are not libelous or obscene or over the 250-word limit. Reporters have no connection to the comments that are posted about their stories online. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Answer (part 2): I'm sorry the writer feels we've reported too much on the STA budget/service issue. However, in our view, this issue is one of the most important facing our community and extensive coverage is demanded. Readers can expect far more in the next few months. I suggest the writer skip those stories if he finds them unimportant. Are we pro-bus? Well, I'm not sure what it means to be pro-bus. But we do believe that citizens are best served when they have the information they need to make informed decisions. If citizens understand the ramifications of STA service cuts and decide they can live with them, so be it.

As to overall news bias, the writer repeats the same old cliche. But in my experience the perception of bias begins with the observer's own prejudices. The pro-administration factions in our area are convinced we're Bush bashers and anti-war activists. The anti-Bush factions are convinced we're Republican mouthpieces. We take heat from both sides. Now, I don't believe that constant, simultaneous criticism from right and left is proof per se of our objectivity. But I do think it illustrates how difficult it is to please everyone all the time. The Spokesman-Review news staff works as hard as any in my experience to cover the news objectively. Our staff is as culturally and politically diverse as the community it serves. Our internal debates mirror those in society. That's the best check on biased reporting.

As to printing just the facts...it is pretty silly to think that there is something like a list of "just the facts" for any story. Too often, one person's facts are the next person's lies. People who see the world in such black and white terms are, at least, awfully naive. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why not mention Spokane's standing?

Question: In Sunday's paper, you ran an AP article in the Region section titled, "Tacoma earns top spot as most stressed city." While this is true amongst the largest metropolitan areas, it is also true (and unmentioned) that Spokane didn't fare too well itself in the medium-sized metropolitan category. Is it more important to the Spokesman-Review and its readers to try to feel better about itself in relation to Tacoma, which has passed Spokane as the second-largest city, or is it more important to your readers to provide information about how its own city is doing in relation to the categories of unemployment rate, divorce rate, suicides, etc.? -- Gregory Delzer, Spokane

Answer: Our failure to give the proper local perspective to this story appears to be the result of an editing oversight. Here's what news editor Jim Kresse found when he traced what happened with this story:

"The Associated Press story we received Saturday night contained no information about Spokane. Later versions of the story, however, did include that information. I've informed Carla Savalli, the city editor, about this study and she's looking into the possibility of doing a local story on stressed cities." -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

What's your legislative coverage this year?

Question: Last year you ran an on-going section on the Legislature's session. Is there any plans for somethinglike that again? -- Roger Dormaier, Hartline, Wash.

Answer: I'm glad you asked! In fact, staff writer Richard Roesler is writing regularly in his web log, "Eye on Olympia." He finds odd, quirky sorts of news tidbits, in addition to writing short items about more substantive news as it occurs. Every Sunday during the session, the online column will be excerpted into print as part of a legislative news page.

Roesler's column is fun, informative reading and is updated frequently, so check back often. For example, did you know that there's a rock group in Manchester, England, named "Lisa Brown," and that the group made Spokane's own state Sen. Lisa Brown the band's "Lisa Brown of the Month?" Didn't think so. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

What about that big traffic jam?

Question: It seems the S-R reporters have little contact with Washington and Idaho state patrol offices. On Jan. 7, during that cold snap, a car and a semi collided on I-90 at the Appleway interchange, about 5:30 pm. Traffic was backed up more than 12 miles, even though many cars took detours to Trent and other roads. It would seem that this would merit a few lines in your paper, but there wasn't a word about it.

Suggestion: In the 1970s, the S-R had a feature in the Sunday travel section of a local Sunday drive. It showed the mapped route, the mileage, a few sentences on what to see. They were drives of 40 to 200 miles or more. I thought it was an interesting and informative feature, especially for newcomers, which I was at that time. Now there is a new generation of readers who would appreciate it. -- Doris Gerhart, Spokane Valley

Answer 1: We do have contact with the state patrol officers, but on particularly bad days when the weather is causing a lot of accidents, their first priority is to deal with motorists, not the media. Also, with so many accidents last week, it wasn't possible for our reporters to be everywhere there was an accident, although we did our best. Although our goal is to reflect all of the events that happen in our community, it's not always possible due to staffing issues or because more important news takes precedence.

Answer 2: The Sunday Drives idea is a good one, and something we could certainly explore - if not in the Metro sections than perhaps in the Outdoors or Travel sections. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Online crossword puzzle?

Question: Is there any way to get the Sunday Spokesman-Review crossword puzzle online? -- Judy Foster

Answer: Sorry, Judy, but our contract allows us only to publish the Sunday crossword in print. There are some crossword puzzles that are published online, including the Universal Crossword on our sister site, Spokane.net. You can see it here. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Funky Winkerbean concerns

Question: Speaking of the Sunday comics, why is it that we only get half of the panels for the Sunday Funky Winerbean strip? If it's a space issue, can't your reduce the size of this and others? We miss some of the story line with this editing tactic. -- Al Gilson, Spokane

Answer: Many strips are drawn in such a way that the opening panels can be dropped without significantly altering the storyline. Most papers take advantage of this in order to run as many comics as possible in the Sunday sections. Strips already have been reduced in size to the point where they are barely readable. I wouldn't want to shrink them any more. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why so few top women editors?

Question: When I intially saw your article about answering questions that readers have, I thought that was a great idea, and still do. Keep it up. The other thing I noticed was that all but one of your editors is a man. How come you don't have more women in the upper-editor positions? Barb Shaw

Answer: The writer is correct, we have too few women in senior management positions. It is an embarrassment. I can offer no explanation for this paper's inability to hire, develop and promote women in the past. But I have made a commitment to reverse the situation. Several female staffers have been promoted in recent months and more such promotions and hires are in the works. -- Steve Smith, editor

Is there a code of ethics for journalists?

Question: I would imagine that there is a creed for journalists and was wondering if you could either print it in the S-R for all to see or in your "Why We Do What We Do" link. I have a hunch there are a lot of other folks that wonder also so it may be a very welcome article. -- Robert A. Clouse, Spokane

Answer: There is no standard, profession-accepted code of ethics or conduct accepted by all newspapers. Many newspapers have internal codes or rules of conduct. Many others have commonly understood standards, but they do not put them in writing.

The most widely accepted code nationally, and the code most often taught in journalism schools, was developed by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). (See it here.) The SPJ code is posted in some newsrooms.

At The Spokesman-Review, we do have internal polices that are part of our employee handbook. The most significant sections deal with commitment to accuracy, avoidance of conflicts of interest and admonitions against plagiarism. Our internal policies and practices are similar to what you'll see in the SPJ code. -- Steve Smith, editor

What's up with the TV Week format?

Question: I will spare you the risible misinterpretations I have made of some of the abbreviated program listings, but "What's up with the TV Week format?" The size of the publication may have been adequate in the days of five broadcast channels, but with today's volume of programming, it is clearly not sufficient.

I expect that the economic factors are paramount, but surely there are off-setting benefits of more ad space being available plus other considerations. Thanks for the opportunity to ask the question this conveniently. -- Niles Schomburg, Spokane

Answer: The Spokesman-Review TV Week is not produced by the newsroom. It is produced by the company's marketing department. Decisions to change the book would be made by that unit, not the newsroom.

Having said that, I can appreciate the writer's frustration. But I also know it is becoming less and less practical for newspapers to publish weekly TV guides. The expanding TV universe requires books to list dozens of channels making schedule grids cumbersome and increasingly difficult to read. Packing all of the required information into a reasonably sized book is a real challenge. Given the limitations, I think our marketing folks do a pretty good job. -- Steve Smith, editor

Another 'Piranha' fan

Question: Once again I opened your fine paper, only to find "Piranha Club" missing. I am a 77-year-old senior citizen, and a subscriber to your paper for many years. I would look forward eargerly to the Sunday edition and have a good laugh from the antics of the "Piranha Club," only to see it replaced by "Garfield," aargh! Who is the space cadet who made that decision? -- Norm Tyndall

Answer: As said in a previous answer, we dropped "Piranha Club" to make way for "Opus." While "Piranha Club" has its fans, it was, perhaps, our least-read strip. -- Steve Smith, editor

Online ad classifications; hunting query

Questions: 1. Why isn't there a guide to the want ads listing the various categories (i.e., 481 wood for sale, or 529 hay, fed, seed) so you can quickly go to what you want to see?

2. A couple of months ago the paper solicited hunting stories from their readers. Were they ever published? -- Rich Hepworth, Spokane

Answer 1: Marlene Anderson, who directs advertising on spokesmanreview.com, gave this response: "The first page of the online classifieds lists the major categories. Each category has sub-categories that correspond to the classifications that are listed in the print newspaper. They have the same name but not the classification numbers. For instance, 'wood for sale' is a sub-category of Miscellaneous Merchandise. The advantage of the online classifieds over the print version is that you can also enter a keyword such as 'wood' and find any ad online that has the word 'wood' in it."

Answer 2: Rich Landers, outdoors editor, said he received so many responses to his query for hunting stories that "I had to postpone publication until I figured out what to do with them. The first installment is set to run in Outdoors & Travel on Jan. 18."

Why the "own private Idaho" lingo?

Question: Why, with the improving quality of the S-R, do you continue to allow D.F. Oliveria to degrade what little space that is devoted to editorial commentary by writing in "his own private Idaho" lingo?

I used to be amazed when former editor Chris Peck could fill Sunday editorial space with strings of one-sentence paragraphs. Thank goodness this is no longer the case, but Oliveria's strange musings need to either be rewritten or removed from the editorial page.

I don't bother reading Doug Clark because his act is stale. OK, some people seem to find his antics amusing -- whatever. But you shouldn't be tainting the rest of your commentary by juxtaposing it with tater chat or whatever it is he calls it. Seems to me, if you set your reader's teeth on edge by your editorial stance, that's one thing. It's another thing to do it with editorial "style". -- B. McNeil, Spokane

Answer: D.F. Oliveria definitely has an individual style, which doesn't sit well with some readers. Others, however, love it, as reflected by the substantial reader feedback he receives. Unorthodox as it is, his Hot Potatoes column has been a finalist in national competition at least twice. Our main concern, however, is to provide a variety of content that will provide something to interest, inform and entertain as broad a base of readers as possible. --Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

All the latest prep scores are now available online

Question: I live down at LaCrosse and we do not get our paper until about noon. I like to know who won football and basketball games and so I go to check the Spokesman-Review's Web site early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and lately you can hardly ever find the scores. However I can go to the Seattle Times and they have all of the east side of the state scores. Why is that?

I would think that a supposedly reputable news source would want to keep up with the competition. It is bad enough that we have to sign in to read any of the articles and I thought that was to better help your readers. -- Sid Mays, LaCrosse

Answer: Have you tried going to our new Web page that lists all of the local prep basketball schedules and scores? The sports department works every game night to update scores on this page as soon as the coaches call in the scores. It's the database that's used to publish the scores in the next day's newspaper, so it's as complete as we can get, as quickly as the information becomes available to us. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Update: Thanks Ken, I appreciate the help. Looks like a good site. -- Sid Mays

I want you to be fair and balanced

Question: I have been a Spokesman-Review subscriber for many years. It is becoming more doubtful if I will continue to be for much longer. I am extremely concerned with the far-left liberal direction your paper is going. Do not try to insult my intelligence that this is not the case. Your selections of articles from papers like the New York Times etc., reflect the liberal selectiveness of your paper. Headlines used for articles are written to emphasize the good of liberals or negative of conservatives, especially our President. Your editorial page is almost totally liberal, including that almost every cartoon puts down the conservatives and our President. No doubt you and your staff are gearing up for the elections. It gets old. Are any of your editors conservative?

On a different subject, as you are aware that our relations with Canada, European and Scandinavia countries are not the best. Having been born and raised in Canada, I know that Canadians in general and specifically the current Liberal government are far left. I believe that most European and Scandinavia are also very liberal, far left countries. My point is that it is no wonder that these countries hate our conservative government and President Bush (the exception, thank goodness, is Tony Blair) and do all that they can to not cooperate with us, especially France. I know this for a fact about Canada, but am unsure about other countries. My question to you, is how much of a factor is this in the current international politics. I would like a "fair and balanced" answer. -- Roy Tiefisher, Coeur d'Alene

Answer: Our goal each day is to present a fair, accurate and comprehensive report on local, national and world events. As you know, we rely on a variety of news services for our national and international news coverage. On any given day, you'll see that we use stories from the Knight Ridder News Service, the Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service, Newhouse News Service and Gannett News Service. However, the majority of our national and foreign coverage is provided by Associated Press, which is the most-widely used news service in the United States. We recently discontinued use of the New York Times news service, primarily due to budget constraints.

I would respectfully disagree with what you describe as our "far-left liberal direction," but I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree on that point. Doug Floyd, our editorial page editor, believes we achieve a pretty good conservative-liberal balance with respect to columnists. We're about to add Thomas Sowell to the mix, by the way.

But it's harder to answer the criticism regarding cartoonists. Doug says most editorial page editors around the country agree, regardless of their own ideologies, that there aren't a lot of good conservative cartoonists available. One -- Michael Ramirez of the Los Angeles Times -- we run frequently, and we look for individual cartoons that take a more conservative-friendly approach. But at the end of the day, there are more liberal-leaning cartoons than conservative ones. It's the nature of cartoonists to lampoon, however, so it's typical that the tilt of the cartooning world is more likely to be away from whoever is occupying the White House.

As for your point on international politics, I'll have to defer to the foreign policy experts. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Why won't reporters return my e-mail?

Question: Within the last month I have sent two e-mails to S/R reporters who have their e-mail address listed at the bottom of a column. I do not recall their name but the subjects were the following:

After the reporter wrote about studded tires, I asked her if the WSP should indicate if studs were used in an injury accident report (and reported to the public) just like seat belts.

The other was to the person who writes the real estate column. This involved, when residing in a small town, should property be listed in other/larger towns within the county besides with the hometown Realtor.This question was sent in on Dec. 29.

Are reporters required to respond to these e-mails?

(Also: I read in the S/R about "Ask the Editors." I typed in "www.spokesmanreview.com/editors" intending to ask the above questions. I ran into a brick wall. Possibly your directions can be a little more explicit.) -- Reg Morgan, Coulee Dam, Wash.

Answer 1: We ask reporters to respond to e-mails and voice mails whenever possible. We don't "require" them to respond because it would be very difficult to monitor and manage that given the number of inquiries we receive, but we do expect and encourage them to return calls and e-mails because we consider it an important and courteous customer service.

I will share your question about "Ask the Editors" with Ken Sands, who is coordinating that new effort. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Answer 2: To submit questions to this column, you have several choices, all involving e-mail. Once you come to this page: www.spokesmanreview.com/editors, click on the words: "Submit your questions here" near the top left corner. That should generate an e-mail message to me, which I can then direct to any of the other editors. Or, you can click on the names of the editors listed in their biographies on the right column of this page, which should generate e-mail headers to them individually. Otherwise, you can e-mail any of us directly. Here are our addresses: steves@spokesman.com, garyg@spokesman.com, kens@spokesman.com, dougf@spokesman.com and carlas@spokesman.com. In addition, we will be more explicit in the message printed in the newspaper. Thanks for pointing that out. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Iraq coverage: trying to separate truth from political spin

Question: I think it is appropriate that you give considerable coverage to the service men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq. However, conspicuously missing is any significant coverage of the substantial progress that is being made daily in Iraq, including things such as schools reopening and admitting both girls and boys, hospitals reopening and being made better than ever, sanitary water supplies and sewers being brought up to date and improved for the first time in 20 years, etc.

To intentionally ignore the progress being made at the cost of American lives is to suggest that they died in vain and made no difference in the lives and freedom of the Iraqi people. Why do you exclude stories of progress in Iraq from your daily news coverage? (These stories are available from national and international news wires and sources.) -- Scott Schmidtman, Spokane

Answer: We don't exclude stories about progress being made in Iraq. Those stories appear from time to time. And if they don't make Page 1 it's because we have pledged to report military fatalities on the front page whenever possible lest we forget the sacrifices of our service men and women.

I think the real issue is trying to separate the truth of events on the ground from political spin. There have been some steps forward in the war zone, and I believe we have reported those, relying on the respected national and international wire services and syndicates with reporters in place. But comprehensive reading of dispatches from Iraq will tell you the situation is far more complex and even desperate than the writer's description. We would not be serving our readers, particularly those in the services or those connected to them, if we replaced fact with spin. -- Steve Smith, editor

Where are the tennis stats?

Question: Is tennis of such low interest that you don't even publish tennis stats? It would seem to me that tennis news should come before gambling odds (for instance) in the scale of news importance. -- Mary Clark, Spokane

Answer: I assume the writer is referencing pro tennis. Our sports editor, Joe Palmquist, tells me that there simply are so many professional tennis tournaments out there that we don't have the space to run comprehensive results until the semifinals and finals of most of them. We do run all of the results of the four major tournaments. We also periodically run the money leaders.

In analyzing reader interests, it's also true that tennis doesn't break into the top ranks for Spokesman-Review readers. -- Steve Smith, editor

What is that new stock symbol?

Question: Regarding the stock prices shown daily in your paper: There is a "u" which shows up before the closing price of GM stock, but nowhere in the paper can I find a key which explains what this "u" means. -- Dale Porter, Bayview, Idaho

Answer: I checked with Rick House, who puts together our stock pages, and he said that the "u" is a new symbol that signifies a new, 52-week high for the stock in question. That's good news for GM stock! Your question served as a good reminder for us to add that symbol to our key. Thanks! -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Comics choices always controversial

Comment: The comics used to be the first piece of the Sunday paper I would read. Not any more! It was kind of refreshing to be greeted by Garfield, and as you finished the comics there was the Piranha Club. To me, "comics" are what they imply. Something light and easy to read and typically bringing out a chuckle or two.

Now you are forced to try and understand ridiculous gibberish in the Opus and for some unknown reason the Piranha Club was removed, which made wading through some of the other comics worthwhile. Not sure who is responsible for making these decisions but they are working at making the sunday comics fire-starter material. -- Robert Byars, Sandpoint

Response: Well, as editor, I have to take responsibility for the comics decisions, always among the most controversial decisions we'll make.

"Opus" was the most requested new comic in memory and has become one of the fastest growing. For its fans, it has not disappointed. Non-fans find it a bit inscrutable. But the positives far, far outweigh the negatives.

We dropped "Piranha Club" to make way for "Opus." It may have been our lest-read Suinday strip. We took only a handful of complaints, mostly people didn't notice.

Every strip has its fans. But some have far fewer than others. When we make a comics change, our goal is to please more people than we offend. I think we succeeded in this last round. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why we do what we do (and how)

Welcome to our newest online column, "Ask the Editors." Five S-R editors will field questions from readers about our journalistic practices, ethics and daily operations. You can ask a specific editor, or submit general questions. Below are short biographies of each of the editors. And here are our areas of responsibility:

Steve Smith, editor; overall news policies and philosophy.
Gary Graham, managing editor; day-to-day news decisions of the printed newspaper.
Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media; overall news policies and day-to-day decisions of the newspaper's online edition.
Doug Floyd, editorial page editor; the newspaper's opinion pages.
Carla Savalli, city editor; the local news report.

We will attempt to answer as many questions as we can, as quickly as possible. So, ask away! (Click on one of the names above to send an e-mail question to an editor.)

Useful links
About Steve Smith
About Gary Graham
About Ken Sands
About Doug Floyd
About Carla Savalli