Does feedback affect view on columnists?

Question: I have one question, just something I'm curious about: When you get Letters to the Editor complaining (ranting and raving) about one of your writers (okay, Doug Clark), what effect does it have? Does it just prove that this column is widely read and therefore serve as an advertisement for it? Or do you sometimes consider getting him to tone it down?

I'm not saying what my own opinion is of his column; I'm just curious if those letters help or hurt a column? Or neither? -- Nikki Sauser

Answer: We take to heart letters to the editor as well as personal e-mails and phone calls. I receive countless communications in any given week on just about every aspect of our work.

If reader response to an issue or personality overwhelmingly reflects a point of view, then I think we need to sit back and reassess our own opinions. But few issues are so black and white. While we have a relatively steady stream of anti-Doug correspondence, we have an equally steady stream of pro-Doug feedback. He's occasionally controversial, but that's what you expect from a local columnist of Doug's type. He remains our most popular personality and receives very high positives in our content research.

Believe it or not, his editors do occasionally tone him down. But as I've said in a previous response, columnists are given great latitude in expressing their opinions. It's called "voice." Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Doug has a voice. -- Steve Smith, editor

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