Isn't Moscow part of North Idaho, too?

Question: I've often wondered why when we receive the "Idaho Edition," that we don't ever get the names, emails, phones of our Idaho State representatives from Latah County in that section about calling your legislator. You stop at Benewah County, and don't come here. I've secretly cussed your paper every time this happens. -- Gary Post, Moscow

Answer: You make a good point. Beginning with next Sunday's weekly legislative page we'll add the contact information for the Latah representatives. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Figures in wire stories don't always apply here

Question: I fully support the underlying message of this story that upgrading to compact fluorescent lights is a greate idea. However, I have a beef with the numbers in the sentence "Replace four 75-watt incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents that are used four hours a day, and you'll save about $27 a year at current electric rates." At current electric rates where -- in Orlando?

The savings for Spokane, where rates are more like 6 cents per kilowatt hour would be more like $20 per year. That's still significant. The writer could have said that for every 100 watts worth of conventional bulbs replaced, you save about 75 watts. This is true in Spokane as well as Orlando.

I understand that the story was more or less just a filler, but is it indicative of other cases where the national story doesn't match the facts in Spokane? -- Jon Etherton, Spokane

Answer: Good point. We often publish stories generated by reporters or syndicated columnists from other parts of the country and the facts or examples they use don't always correlate to the facts or circumstances in our area. We usually try to catch those references in the editing process and either eliminate them or make some logical local comparisons. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

How do I find a story online?

Question: Is there any way to find a story online that was in yesterday's paper? -- Ron Reed, Chattaroy

Answer: On the cover page of SpokesmanReview.com, there is a blue "navigation bar" on the left side. Scroll down and then click on "Archives." That will show you a calendar of the dates still available for free online. Click on the desired date to see a list of all of the headlines that appeared in that day's newspaper. If you'd like to find an older article, you'll have to pay a fee to the company that administers our archive. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

How do I submit articles?

Question: I write some, just for the sake of doing it -- not interested in being paid. Over the years I have written some "Letter to the Editor" type items to the S-R that were used. However, regarding larger pieces (600-1,200 words), while I submitted a few a couple of years back, I got feeling the S-R was just not interested. While I do not claim to be a professional writer, in every case the pieces were published elsewhere. Understanding that you have a paid writing staff, is the S-R interested in stories/articles (500+ words) from the readers? If yes, how do you wish them submitted? -- Richard L. Jones, Spokane

Answer 1: The Spokesman-Review is always interested in hearing about the issues that concern citizens. And we do often use the work of freelancers, particularly in the Voices. Our weekly neighborhood-based publications use a fair number of community writers, whom we refer to as correspondents.

I would be happy to forward your inquiry to the Voice editors Ė Richard Miller (North/South Voice), Jeff Jordan (Valley Voice), and Susan Drumheller (Handle Extra). I know they are looking for strong writers who can capture issues and personalities of interest in our regionís communities. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Answer 2: We're always looking for guest columns that have something fresh and insightful to say about local and regional issues. I've already e-mailed a copy of our guidelines to Mr. Jones and will be happy to send them to anyone who is interested. The maximum length for such offerings is 850 words. Two key points to keep in mind about our selection process: 1) Our choice is based on the needs of the readers, not the writer; and 2) It's an opinion page and you have lots of latitude for expressing yours, but assertions of fact beyond what's common knowledge will have to be defended. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Update: I'm always interested in lively writing about issues that affect our neighborhoods. I suggest that prospective writers run their ideas by me first. This lets me provide direction, and check the archives for both duplication and background info I can forward to the writer. -- Richard Miller, Voice editor

How often do Voices come out?

Question: How often is the North County section printed in the S-R? How can one contribute to that section?

The Spokesman-Review is a safe haven for diverse ideas. While I do not always or often agree with what S-R endorses, I know you all do a fair and accurate job of reporting the news. -- Heidi Duty, Spokane

Answer: The North Voice is published every Thursday along with the main newspaper. You can find it inserted into your bundle with all the rest of the sections. The editor of the North Voice is Richard Miller. We also publish a South Voice on Thursdays, and a Handle Extra in North Idaho on Saturdays. The Valley Voice is the only neighborhood-based section that is published twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

'Inappropriate information,' or real essence of story?

Question: Why did John Blanchette's Sunday column about the old Gonzaga U gym (and "The Cave" area where assistant coaches lived) include rumors or stories about "clothes optional" swim parties or other such innuendo. What did such information have to do with the overall article about the old gym or the new arena? Was that really news? Why didn't an editor remove the inappropriate information?

Does the sports section have an ethical standard in regards to the fact that
thousands of teenagers turn to the sports and comics sections every day? -- Lisa Johnson, Deer Park

Answer: If we had removed what you termed "inappropriate information" the readers would not have been informed of the real essence of the Cave. I believe the writer did a good job of giving the reader a REAL picture of the Cave without stepping over the line with too much information. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

Why not deliver to the Tri-Cities?

Question: As a Zags fan, I have been greatly disappointed in the last couple of years to see that The Spokesman-Review has apparently vanished as an available retail paper in the Tri-City area. I visit family in the area several times a year and used to be able to get a copy from bookstores or from vending machines. Even the Sunday edition seems to have vanished from a marketplace of nearly 200,000, only a two-hour drive from your home base. Have you abandoned this nearby market or has the market (or route drivers) abandoned you?

Those of us who thrive on Zags coverage are starving on the six column inches or less (usually buried inside) the local paper provides to its two nearest Division I teams (EWU, GU), while featuring the third-nearest (WSU) for its only solo article on the sports cover. -- Rick Soper, Spokane

Answer: Circulation manager Bob Thomas tells me that the S-R has not been available in the Tri-Cities for quite some time. "Our driver quit and the cost of getting the papers distributed outweighed the return on the less than 100 copies we were selling."

There is, of course, the option of reading those sports stories in our electronic edition of the newspaper. And beginning March 8, you will be able to purchase electronic replicas of the printed newspaper if you prefer viewing the online newspaper in the same format as the print version. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

What the heck is a 'blog?'

Question: Ken, help me out. I visited your Web site. Enjoyed all that I read and appreciated diverse views and your honest and helpful replies. But tell me, what is the meaning of "blog?"
--Niki Anderson, Spokane

Answer: Blog is short for Weblog. A Weblog is an online journal. Most online journals consist of short, frequently posted items that link to other locations on the Web. And the format is reverse chronological order, meaning that the newest posts are at the top.

I, personally, think the name "blog" is stupid. Even worse, the name carries a lot of negative baggage in the journalism world. Because the blog format originally was used mostly for diary-like journals and very slanted political commentary, editors typically dismiss all blogs as pointless and unreliable. What they donít realize is the potential for using the blog format in a journalistic way, as a better method of story-telling on the Web.

The Spokesman-Review is leading the newspaper industry with its use of this online story-telling device. Itís my goal to improve story-telling on the Web. And if I can't change the name of an online column to something other than blog, I need to work on changing the perceptions, as well. Sorry for the longwinded answer. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Question: In Thursdayís paper your headline story "Bush leery of jobs forecast" had the following paragraph in it that really frightens me. "Jobs are a sensitive political issue for Bush as he fights to keep his own job in a second term. The economy has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs since Bush took office, the worst job-creation record of any president since Herbert Hoover." Where did you get these numbers?

I went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Civilian Labor Force Level, for 16 year olds and older. According to the Bureauís data in January of 2001 there were 141,583,000 jobs when President Bush took office, in January of 2002 there were 143,734,000, in January of 2003 there were 144,863,000 and in January of 2004 there were 146,510,000. I am no mathematical genius but it looks like President Bush has added 4,241,000 payroll jobs during his first term so far. Again, where do you get your numbers?

I know the Democrats hate the president and the media tends to lean with them on almost every issue but this is way out of line. -- Wayne Lythgoe, Colbert

Answer: Our story on the U.S. jobs forecast came to us via the Associated Press, which supplies hundreds of newspapers across the country with daily news from around the globe. I don't know where AP reporter Terence Hunt obtained his numbers, but I presume the numbers are accurate. Hunt is a veteran reporter who has been covering the economy and the White House for years. To my knowledge, the White House has not challenged the AP story publicly and AP has not issued a correction. The numbers you cited for January 2003 and January 2004 would indicate an increase of approximately 1.6 million jobs, yet the Bush administration noted this week that 366,000 jobs have been created since August. The numbers the White House cited this week would suggest slower growth rates than your numbers indicate. My real point here is that there are a number of sources for jobless statistics and a number of ways to interpret them. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Update: Part of the confusion here may be coming from the terminology involved. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The labor force includes all persons classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary." I've bolded the phrase "employed or unemployed", because that's the key part here. (For reference, the BLS glossary also offers specific definitions for civilian, employed and unemployed.)

So, as defined by the BLS, the "Civilian Labor Force" consists of every American who: 1) is over 16 but not too old to work, 2) isn't in jail, 3) isn't in the military, 4) isn't employed by the federal government, and 5) doesn't work on a farm.

That's why the numbers you were looking at didn't match up with news reports on job losses. What you're describing is growth in the number of Americans eligible for a job, not growth in the number who have a job. -- Ryan Pitts, online producer

Where are the online forums?

Question: I know there's been a lot of dissention on a couple of the S-R forums, especially the "Iraq Conflict" and "Local News and Views," and now I notice the forums are all down. Will the forums continue in the future, maybe with a registration feature to stop flaming and baiting? -- Bruce McAuley, Republic

Answer: Actually, we had a problem with one of the sports forums, and it gave us a good excuse to take down the forums for a database upgrade. We also are considering instituting a very strict set of etiquette rules and enlisting the help of volunteer forum administrators to enforce the rules. We simply do not have the staffing to pay attention to the forums.

Left unmonitored, the forums unfortunately degrade quickly into a very destructive environment that is not a good reflection on our community or this newspaper for hosting such an ugly mess. Registration likely wouldn't help much, so volunteer moderating is really the only viable solution.

We hope to have the State B prep sports forum back up and running well before the State B tournament. There is no timetable on the return of the others at this point. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

We agree: pop-up ads are terrible

Question: I just toured your Web site. I do not appreciate the pop-up ads. After I closed out your Web page, I was still getting pop-ups. You must be using a very sophisticated Web manager, because they all got through my filters. I think an organization of journalists should be professional and have integrity. Slamming people with Web pop-ups does not seem appropriate and lacks integrity. -- Randy Tetzner, Coeur d'Alene

Answer: We could not agree more. We do not allow pop-ups on our site, although in one case it might have appeared that we did. Let me explain: on our cover page, midway down the middle column, you will see about 10 items listed under "TOP AP HEADLINES." When you click on one of those stories, it actually takes you to an Associated Press Web site to view the story. You have to click your back button to get back to S-R.com.

The AP Web site does serve up one pop-up for each user, and never more than one every four hours. Receiving your complaint spurred me into action. (Believe me, this has been a nagging concern of mine for a LONG time.) I finally tracked down the person at AP who very graciously and expeditiously removed the pop-ups from the AP page that serves up stories to S-R readers. Problem solved.

However, I must add that I suspect your particular situation had nothing to do with us or with AP. You actually may picked up "pop-under" ads from some other Web site that you visited during your time online that day. You often do no notice the stealth "pop-unders" until you start to shut down your browser. It's sometimes tricky to figure out at that point where they came from, so it's easy to blame the last page you visited.

Unfortunately, the other very real possibility is that sometime in the recent past you've visited a site that secretly put "spyware" on your PC that launches pop-up or pop-under ads no matter where you go on the Web. In that case, it would appear as though the pop-ups came from our site. They most emphatically do not. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Now you need a far leftist for balance

Comment: Just read D.F. Oliveria's blog. Ewwwww. I hope the S-R can find someone on their staff to balance D.F. with an extreme leftist blog and links. Good luck! -- John Griffith, Spokane

Answer: Columnists and editorial writers are allowed to express their opinions. And we'd certainly like to have balance. (Although some of our critics would argue that Oliveria provides such balance.) Rebecca Nappi, another columnist, has a blog about reforms in the Roman Catholic church, called Journey to Vatican III. But we don't have any politically left-leaning columnists or editorial writers who have volunteered to write for the Web.

We're thinking, though, about how we might invite a number of community "guest bloggers" to write about politics during this election year from a variety of perspectives. At some point, I suppose, we'd be looking for volunteers. Stay tuned. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Why print rumors about Kerry, but not 'substantiated allegations' about Bush?

Question: I noticed today that you carried a story on some unsubstantiated stories about John Kerry. I understand that that is part of politics, but it should be a two-way street. You haven't carried anything on the arrest records contained in GW's military records or the substantiated allegations that he tried to have his guard record cleansed when he ran for governor of Texas. Why haven't you carried those stories? -- John O'Rourke, Spokane

Answer: Now that the presidential campaign is gathering steam, newspapers like ours will be inundated with all kinds of stories about the candidates, many of them focusing on their stands on important issues, their track records as elected officials and decision-makers, their personal characteristics and their private lives. We're not going to pretend that we'll publish every story, every day, especially the ones that our readers have heard about via television or the Web.

Last week, the rumors on the national political scene were fast and furious, especially regarding allegations that John Kerry had had an affair. At the same time, the White House was responding to a torrent of questions about President Bush's duty in the National Guard. Yes, there were also stories about Bush's criminal record, which, as I understand it, had to do with speeding tickets several decades ago. Whatever the case regarding his record, that issue seemed to pale by comparison with others.

Many times, the large volume of significant and important stories available to us is simply overwhelming, and we have to make difficult choices on which stories to publish. As we continue to report on the campaign and the decisions facing this country, we'll focus on the key issues that affect the lives of our readers.

That simply means we'll pay more attention to stories about the economy, education, national security, foreign policy, the environment and other topics. I think if you review our news pages for the past several weeks, you'll find that our editors have done an a good job of selecting the most important stories on topics that most affect this country. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Disappointed in changes but likes Valley Voice

Question: I consider myself a very faithful reader of the S-R. However I am somewhat disappointed at some of the changes you have made, namely:

1. You do not print a "Looking Back" photo on a daily basis as you used to. That is one of the first things I look for in the "IN" section. As a native of Spokane I really enjoy these old photos. They are our heritage, our history.

2. That Carolyn Hax is awful. I have tried to read her column but get lost in all her nonsensical jibberish. Too much fluff and not to the point.

3. You really blew it when you dropped the Parhana Club from the Sunday comics. It was funny which comics are supposed to be. "Opus" is not funny! Most of the Sunday comics are junk and again ARE NOT FUNNY.

I would not be fair to you if I didn"t give you a good stroke on the Valley Voice section of Thursday's edition. The profiles of people who have lives and recently passed on are really great. Please, please don't drop that.

I am doubtful that anything will change as the result of this short note, but I needed to let you know. -- Dick Castleman, Spokane Valley

Answer: First, the "Looking Back" photos have been printed on a space available basis for many, many years. As news space goes up and down, their frequency can vary. And because papers tend to be smaller early in the year, that's when space is most limited and frequency less reliable. We agree with you, the photos are important and they'll remain part of our lineup.

Second, we added Carolyn Hax (in rotation with "Annie's Mailbox") after Ann Landers died. "Annie's Mailbox" is written by Landers' former personal assistants and so is a lot like the old Landers column. Hax appeals to a much younger audience, has a looser writing style and a more contemporary frame of reference. In combination, I think they serve a large range of readers. I think one or the other really would disenfranchise on segment or the other. Personally, I find Hax tough to read. But she has her fans, too.

Third, I know we've taken a bit of heat on the "Piranha Club." The strip had its fans, but just too few to support its continued publication. "Opus," its replacement, is hugely popular right out of the box and it is only going to grow. Comics choices are among the hardest decisions we make -- it's just impossible to satisfy every need and interest. But we strive for a good mix that serves the largest number of readers possible.

We do take seriously the letters we receive from readers. Cumulatively, they can have an impact. And I always appreciate hearing from thoughtful readers who choose to spend their hard-earned money on our newspaper. Please write anytime. -- Steve Smith, editor

Cover WMD intrigue rather than Janet Jackson

Question: It is now "understood" that the information the Bush administration used as the basis for taking our nation to war was flawed. There are also strong indications that the administration purposely mishandled the evidence and misrepresented their case to the American people. In doing so, they have mislead us into to a very costly war with no end in sight and now there are indications Iraq may be poised on the edge of civil war.

Pakistan's government has now admitted selling nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Evidently they tried to sell it to others including Iraq and they weren't interested. Then as a face slap to the American people Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf pardoned the scientist who headed the proliferation, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

How is it that we are led to war in Iraq to stop the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction there that evidently never existed? Then one of our allies who "stood strongly behind our invasion of Iraq" is exposed for having sold technology for building Weapons of Mass Destruction to the highest bidders. Yet it seems the Bush administration has nothing to say about this event. Is it because we already got the rights for Unocal's pipelines to run through Afghanistan and Pakistan? The most disturbing part of all of this is not that Bush has tried to sweep it under the carpet, but that the media doesn't seem to think this is a story worth pursuing. What is going on in this nation when this type of debacle takes place and the media doesn't seem interested?

My question for the editors is why isn't the media focusing more on this story? What has the Spokesman-Review done to bring this story the focus it deserves? It is very disturbing to me that we have had report after report of the inappropriate half-time show at the Super Bowl, yet this story has received little to no press coverage. -- Ron Reed, Chattaroy

Answer: I would argue that in fact reporters have been very persistent about asking questions regarding the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Unfortunately, we're not always getting clear answers to the questions, but we will keep asking them and searching for the truth. We published the CIA director's assessment of the WMD issue recently on the front page, along with several other developments as they have happened.

As for Abdul Qadeer Khan, we've published stories about him and his recent pardon. Just today, we published a story about how he was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy loyalty. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Fix classified ad structure, and what about comics selection?

Queston 1: What guidelines apply to your crafting of classified ads so that they best fulfill the ad's purpose? My best example is #500 Dogs. From my view, this is a totally disorganized jumble of mixed raw data that has to be scanned and rescanned in order to find what is being sought. The ad's submitter wishes to sell dogs and the reader wishes to purchase a dog but there is absolutely no order in the process.

Do you envision a reader thinking: "I want an AKC certified dog and really do not care if it's a chihuahua or a pit bull, just as long as it's AKC." So why is AKC the first item listed in many ads? The first item is supposed to catch the reader's eye and pull him into reading the rest. What's wrong with insisting that each ad begins with the breed, just for the simple sake of ordered efficiency?
Also, why in this age of computers, can't you list the ads in alphabetical order by breed?

Question 2: How do you select and deselect your comic strips? Is it a totally subjective process? Is it done by more than one person? Is there any scientific base of research of your readership's opinions involved? Why are some strips included in your Sunday edition that do not appear daily? Why are some strips larger in size than others? -- Charlie Morris, Spokane

Answer 1: You have brought up an issue that we have been wrestling a lot with lately. As you correctly point out, there is a fine balance between meeting the reader's needs and the advertiser's wishes. In the past couple of weeks, we have been talking about the pet section - particularly #500 Dogs, to see if there can be a "keyword" organization alphabetically by breed. Since the column is organized aphabetically, ads that begin with "Collie" would come before "Great Dane."

This will cause concern with some advertisers who see being at the top of the column the best placement for response or pet store who have multiple breeds of dogs they want to advertise. But, you bring up the reader side that shows that properly organized classifieds offer the best response. We will put this issue at the top of our list to resolve. Thank you for calling it to our attention. -- Marlene Anderson, advertising department

Answer 2: The comics process is subjective. We don't rely on statistically valid surveys because the cost would far outweigh the benefit. There are national comics surveys available, and we do look at those. Typically, regional trends don't differ significantly from the national. Also, as in television, the most popular strips make themselves known through "viewership." A top strip, such as "Doonesbury" will appear in 1,000 or more papers. A less popular strip, such as the cancelled "Piranha Club," might appear in a few hundred or even far fewer.

Several editors will weigh in on comics decisions -- the features editor, the managing editor or others. But, in the end, it's the editor's decision.

We carry some different strips on the weekend for purposes of variety, mostly. Also, some strips, such as "Opus," are available only on Sunday.

Some strips run larger because of contractual obligations -- "Opus" is one. But usually it's just a matter of fitting the strips on the page. It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together and sometimes some of the pieces have to be larger to make it all work. -- Steve Smith, editor

Do more investigative reporting

Question: Any thoughts to the possibility of seeing some type of investigative reporting along the lines of covering national/political news? You talk about puppet masters from afar dictating the spin, yet your own reporters seem to rely much to heavily on the "official" pabulum, spun by the White House or Boise/Olympia PR people.

I remember a day when reporters were far more independent when it came to scooping. We could always rely on a few restless souls who weren't satisfied with the propaganda regurgitated by politicians. With all the misinformation that the presses around the country have been fed for the last three years, isn't there an interest or desire by some in the media to start doing more of their own research and having the healthy attitude of questioning authority?

After all, isn't that what makes our Democracy and freedom of speech such a hallmark of the U.S.? It used to be anyway? Just curious - not attacking! I think more and more of us feel like we're all being manipulated by the press - right or left - we all hunger for the day when there will be a return to more independent even handed accurate and intelligent information, and those among you who have the courage to do their own investigating and the courage to ask the hard questions, demand the hard truths. -- Thomas D. Keenan, Coeur d'Alene

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer because the assumptions behind it are stated as fact but are, in fact, arguable.

What political truths are reporters failing to uncover? There certainly may be some. But the press, in general, has never been more aggressive in trying to cover politicians, bureaucracts and governments. In fact, there are some media observers who believe this aggressiveness, and resulting appearance of negativity, has led to a debilitating cynicism that drives citizens away from politics, voting and public service.

At the national level, the national press corps still conducts aggressive investigative and watchdog reporting. I think coverage of the national budget deficits has been quite effective in getting past official spin. And who would argue that the press has been asleep on the war in Iraq, on intelligence failures and on shifting policy statements from the administration? Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell would hardly agree that the press corps has been soft on them. And President Bush's attempted manipulation of the press is a hot topic in our industry and has fostered the predictable, and opposite reaction from reporters more anxious than ever to get at the facts.

At the local level, we take our watchdog role quite seriously. Anyone reading our Olympia coverage from reporter Rich Roesler know he pulls no punches and is frequently at odds with legislators and the governor's office. Betsy Russell, our reporter in Boise, is leading the fight against the Idaho Legislature's attempts to close its doors to the public and hold meetings in secret. But we are a local paper, so it will be a rarity for us to tackle significant issues at strictly a national level. We must leave that work for others.

News consumers face enormous challenges in sifting through the mass of information available to them in a 24/7, cable-saturated world. Politicians can find ready audiences for their PR-driven spin on cable networks that have political agendas and on talk radio. The Internet has spawned thousands of Web sites that promote "news" that is frequently nothing more than rumor, at best, and deliberate fiction at worst.

Nevertheless, as a First Amendment absolutist, I think the proliferatuion of media, even agenda-driven media, is good for society. The burden on citizens has never been greater. But a savvy information consumer can navigate the crowded, noisy marketplace of ideas and discern important truths. -- Steve Smith, editor

No more 'Tour of Duty' features

Question: Why has The Spokesman-Review stopped running the "Tour of Duty" page? -- Mary DeLateur, Spokane

Answer: We ended that feature with the end of formal hostilities in Iraq, although that distinction feels rather meaningless at this point. We did establish an online database of American soldiers killed in Iraq and we keep that database updated. -- Steve Smith, editor

How about a Metropolitan blog?

Question: When do you plan to open a blog on Metropolitan Securities? A great number of your readers are effected by this debacle and would like a forum for expressing their frustrations, guiding their future investment and legal decisions and keeping up to date on the latest information. Can you do this? -- John P. Campbell

Answer: John, that's a very interesting idea. A Web log, or online journal (blog for short) is a place where we could collect all of the articles done on that subject and provide a forum where readers could talk to each other.

I'm leaning against the idea right now, for three reasons: 1) It takes a staffing commitment to pull this off, and our reporter on the Met beat, John Stucke, is overworked as it is; 2) The best blogs link to lots of other sources. Right now, the S-R is really the main source of news on this story. A blog linking to all of our own stories would be a little redundant; and 3) I worry about opening up a forum on this because it would largely be unedited and unmoderated, and I worry that some people would take out their anger and frustrations in inappropriate ways. Anyone out there want to change my mind? I'm listening. --Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Inequity in coverage of women's sports

Question: A number of us have noticed what appears to be an inequity in the coverage of women's gymnastics compared to men's wrestling. An illustration would be the story in last Friday's paper on the regional wrestling meet last Saturday and no mention of the regional gymnastic's meet on the same day. I wondered if you might be willing to conduct an audit of your coverage in these areas, including photos, to see if our strong perception is correct. -- Kerry Lynch, Spokane

Answer: No audit necessary. We do have more coverage of wrestling. There is simply more interest in wrestling than gymnastics. Just look at the attendance. However, we don't ignore gymnastics. The regional gymnastics meet for 2A was Friday and we had a story in Saturday's paper. The regional meet for 4A was Saturday and we did have a story (and headline) in Sunday's paper (C11). We will be at the state tournament in Tacoma this Friday and Saturday. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

Why so many errors?

Question: I retired in Colville after 20 years in Alaska; I've been a steady reader for years. I have noticed a decline in the quality of the paper. It appears that spell check and grammer check have replaced proof-readers; words are often misspelled or out of context. It's a little annoying. -- Jeff Hall, Colville

Answer: Believe me, it's annoying to us, as well. We have quite a few safeguards in place to protect the paper from spelling and grammar errors. Still, some get through the cracks. We do have copy editors who read copy at several stages of the production process and also read page proofs.

But we process about half a million words a day and sometimes mistakes get through. Trust me, we're working on it. A new computer system will help. That's being installed now. And we're always seeking out training programs that will improve our staff's professional skills. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why so many stories that 'jump?'

Question: Why do you make it so difficult to read the newspaper? Our kids have many things on their schedule, they don't have time to search for the ends of the articles. We as seniors have the time, but by the time we jump four or five pages we have lost our patience. The job of the newspaper is to keep their readers interested. You are not the only source of news. You have lost three potential families as readers. Continue your "jump" articles and lose more. Perhaps reformating the whole kit and kaboodle and putting the ads at the end in one place would help all of us! -- Bill Matherly, Worley, Idaho

Answer: "Why do you make it so difficult to read the newspaper?" Wow! That's a question editors hate to see.

A newspaper really is a remarkably efficient transmitter of information. Still, there are some things that we do routinely that do make it more difficult for readers to navigate the paper. One of those things is "jumping" stories. We know that readership of any given story plummets when the story jumps from a cover page to an inside page. Most readers simply aren't interested enough to follow.

There are a couple of solutions.

First, more of our stories should be more interesting. Readers will follow a great story for as many jumps as necessary.

Second, fewer stories should jump. Some newspapers limit the number of jumped stories to just one or two per cover. Routinely, we jump all four, five or six stories from a cover page.

Third, we need to change our cover page design to accommodate more short stories and news briefs that provide a great deal of information in much less space.

Last thought --- advertisers pay the bills. They won't pay to be separated from the paper's news content. That's a change we won't see. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why not write about charity and success, too?

Question: Who decides what is going to be in print? There seems to be so much focus on "negative" news, and not enough on the great things that are happening in our area, and in the world. Is it really a case where the general public would rather hear about rape and murder, than about charity and success? -- LeAne Austin, Spokane

Answer: Many of our decisions on which stories we publish are a result of conversations throughout the day among the city editor, the business editor, the front page editors, the national and international new editors (referred to as wire editors), the InLife editor and the sports editor. Your comment on "negative news" is one that editors frequently hear from readers.

Our goal each day is to publish the most important stories, the ones that have relevance to the lives of our readers. At the same time, we often publish stories that celebrate the successes of the people who live in this community and whose lives can inspire others. We frequently write about people who overcome obstacles or who have contributed to the lives of people around them. Granted, the world and national news can be pretty grim some days, but we'd be shortsighted if we chose to ignore those news and publish only stories about the good things happening here. Focusing on only the good news would give readers an unrealistic view of the world around them.

I'd like to invite you to attend one of our daily news meetings, where we discuss stories and decide what we're going to put in the paper. We'd be more than willing to hear what you have to say about our story selections. If you are interested, send me an email at garyg@spokesman.com, and we'll set up a visit at your convenience. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Investigate Comcast rates

Question: Has the paper, during this period when Comcast is up for renewal, considered finding out why we do not have access to ESPN2 without buying a $12.99 package which includes channels most of us are not interested in, when the rest of the state (everything outside of the city of Spokane) is getting ESPN2 and paying slightly less than Spokane residents? I think we're being screwed here and this needs to be resolved before a long term contract is approved. -- Duane A. Van Gundy, Spokane

Answer: We have not explored the issue on the City Desk, but I would be happy to suggest the idea to the Business staff. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Syndicated columnist makes no sense

Question: I am curious about how you determine the frequency of which available syndicated columnists get printed. Lately, it seems as though the less sense a columnists makes, the more he gets print. I refer specifically to the recent Thomas Sowell articles which range from "Right Wing Apologist + Excuse Maker" to "Outer Limits Nonsense Babbling."

The Sowell column of Jan. 25 about "Liberals running out of poor people" was the corker that dumbfounded me. I can only surmise that the editors making the decisions are following the World Wrestling Federation's business philosophy of "The more outrageous, the more paying customers!" -- Ed Deiter, Spokane

Answer: First, for the record, I choose the columns. If there's blame to be assigned, it's mine alone. I appreciate the fact that you don't think much of columnist Thomas Sowell, who is a conservative economist, philosopher and author at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. I think he has something important to add to our opinion pages, partly because he often takes an unorthodox approach. One person's originality is another's outer limits nonsense babbling, I suppose.

In answer to your original question, though, among those syndicated columnists we use on a regular basis, they show up approximately weekly, depending on a variety of considerations that include their vacation schedules and the timeliness and relevance of the issues they choose to address. Five of Sowell's columns have appeared since we began running them a month ago. In the same period, David Broder and Ellen Goodman both have appeared seven times, Cal Thomas four times, and James Pinkerton, Kathleen Parker, Leonard Pitts Jr. and Molly Ivins, three times each. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Abuse clinic?

Question: How does the editorial staff define the parameters of civility (if at all) when selecting letters to the editor? Is there a difference between abuse and discourse? -- Iris St. John, Spokane

Answer: It's a subjective process, certainly. We want to facilitate a vigorous reader conversation about important public policy issues. Unfortunately, it's a fuzzy dividing line that separates that ideal from raw ranting and personal attack. In the end, we prefer to err on the permissive side, sharing Thomas Jefferson's belief that "Error may be safely tolerated when truth is free to combat it." -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Slight slant to the left

Question: I got a kick out of reading the letter that said The Spokesman-Review seems to list to the right, and wondered if it was due to the area and the large number of constituents who are Republican. The author of that letter also indicated he was Democrat, so my view will be different. I am a conservative living in North Central Idaho, and I feel that your paper does a pretty good job of appealing to all political stripes, with perhaps a slight slant to the left.

The only two aspects of your paper I disagree with are the editorial cartoons by Toles and the op/ed pieces by Molly Ivins. I know you do not write these yourself but as a conservative I feel they reflect badly on your paper. I am sure there are many people who like them so I don't expect to see them go away, but I just wanted to voice my opinion. Sorry if this is more of a opinion piece than an actual question. -- Aaron Kin, Moscow, Idaho

Answer: In all honesty, which way we list frequently depends on the side of the boat from which you're watching. I had a recent phone conversation with a man who called me a communist, followed within minutes with another call from a reader who implied that our letters policy was designed to protect President Bush.

I don't subscribe to the theory that being criticized by opposing sides is necessarily evidence that you're right on track. Nevertheless, I think it's important to have commentary that reflects a variety of positions. Toles and Ivins have strong followings, as do conservatives such as cartoonist Michael Ramirez and columnist Thomas Sowell. One thing to keep in mind about cartoonists, they tend to be scolds. Ideology aside they poke fun of whoever occupies the White House at the time. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

More national/international news on Monday

Question: Some friends and I were just grumbling about the S-R 's national/international coverage. After reading the International column, we often have to turn to the Wall Street Journal, USA Today or the Internet for follow-up information. It isn't unusual to then find other world-influencing events that weren't reported at all.

Monday's paper is small. A section overviewing national and international events from the prior week, similar to the financial insert, would be a wonderful addition. Although the financial insert is of interest to a minority of your readers, it is much appreciated by them. A section on world events may possibly fall into that catagory. An additional plus, if it were added to Monday's paper, may be that younger readers would begin to be more aware of our world. -- Sandy Lawrence, Spokane

Answer: We actually increased the amount of space we devote to national and international news last year. Newspapers around the country have learned that reader interest in international news has increased since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. I think you'll find that the Monday editions of most newspapers are a bit smaller than other days because Sunday is generally considered a slow news day. And of course, increasing the amount of space in the Monday paper would add to our costs. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Cover divorce practices

Question: Has anyone looked into the situation of Washington divorce practices - specifically with regards to the impacts it has on the parenting and fathers in the lives of their kids? As time goes on in my life I meet more and more fathers who are not allowed to be parents because of our court system. -- Kymberly Larson, Spokane

Answer: We havenít examined divorce rates, parental custody or other related issues for some time. Perhaps itís time to revisit the issues. We did write a story in Fridayís paper about an effort among a group of churches to better support married couples and couples about to marry in order to reduce the divorce rate in Washington state. In the spring, the newspaper plans to look at child abuse and domestic violence issues in our region, which seems to be a more pressing problem at this time. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Why give such 'politically correct' answers?

Question: I have read most of the 'Ask the Editors' submissions and replies. I found the replies were 'politically correct' answers meant to minimize any negativity for The Spokesman-Review or its staff. Very disappointing. -- Phil Aikman, Spokane

Answer: I'm not sure what the writer means by "politically correct." We're answering the questions that come to us and some of those have been pretty critical. When we respond to criticism, we're trying to provide an explanation of our actions, a rationale for decisions and the context behind policy and practices. But readers can draw their own conclusions from our responses, can decide for themselves if they think we're right or wrong.

We do try to acknowledge flat-out mistakes -- fact mistakes or judgment mistakes -- when they occur. We do that every day in print in our Accuracy Watch column on the local news front. And we'll do it here when warranted. -- Steve Smith, editor

Confusing headlines on stories continued on another page

Question: I understand why news articles have to be contuined on another page. What I do not understand is why the continued story on another page is under a different title. I find it very confusing to have to sort through all stories on the continued page to find the one I am interested in. Why does the same story not have the same title on both pages? -- Larry Parker, Spokane

Answer: In newspaper parlance, youíre asking about stories that "jump." To be honest, The Spokesman-Review, like most newspapers, jumps too many stories. We know for a fact that readership on any given story drops dramatically when we ask readers to follow it to another page. Yet we cotninue to jump stories because the alternatives -- much shorter stories or stories written in multiple parts -- can be much harder to produce.

When we do jump a story, we need to make it as easy as possible for readers to find the continuation. Our current style for jump headlines is to write a full second headline that conveys real information and which doesn't simply duplicate the original. The thinking is readers will learn something from the jump headline even if they don't read the rest of the story and that some readers who missed the first part might be attracted to the jump where they'll pick up the story for the first time.

In any event, we have editors who believe our jump head style needs to be simplified. They're meeting now to determine if changes should be made and I'm sure they'll read this question with genuine interest. -- Steve Smith, editor

What's with the slant to the right?

Question: Is it because we are in North Idaho/Eastern Washington that I get the impression that The Spokesman-Review slant appears to lean heavily to the right? As a Democrat I seem to be in totally Republican territory. Do you feel a list in that direction? -- Jerry Burns, Hayden, Idaho

Answer: I'll respond from the perspective of the editorial page, where listing is not only acceptable but encouraged. But it's not as simple as left-right. Our editorial voice has staked out some fairly liberal positions on social issues such as abortion and gay rights. We're more conservative when it comes to fiscal issues involving tax policy and maintaining a healthy, job-supporting business climate.

When a decision boils down to partisan considerations -- election endorsements, for example -- we favor more Republicans than Democrats, but the ratio is probably around 60-40. As for the community, Eastern Washington and North Idaho are more conservative than the nation at large, but Spokane and Kootenai counties tend to be more liberal -- or at least less conservative -- than the rest of the region.

We reach our opinions independently, though. If we were overly worried about staying in lockstep with public opinion, we would publish our endorsements after the elections rather than before. Overall, we take positions we think are in the best interest of our communities within an appropriate set of values and beliefs. And we count on readers to provide an abundance of alternative viewpoints in the letters forum. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Where are the enlistments?

Question: I used to remember seeing a listing of our young men and women joining the military. Just curious if you still do that. My son joined the Navy, and shipped out yesterday, part of the reason for my asking. -- Frankie Taylor Fisher, Spokane Valley

Answer:We used to run military enlistments in the Achievements listings, but don't any longer. It became a space issue because we had so many weddings to get in the newspaper. But now that we've begun charging for wedding announcements, the number of submissions has dropped off. We may want to revisit the issue of publishing military announcements. I will mention this to the editors who handle the production of those kind of announcements. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

What about news of Canada?

Comment: I would like to see more Canadian news in the Spokesman-Review, particularly news from the provinces adjacent to Washington state: British Columbia, Alberta. I would find analyses of Canadian politics and economy an interesting topic. I listen to the BBC on a satellite radio and sometimes hear stories that I never see in The Spokesman-Review. One recent example was a story about reported police brutality, including incidents in Vancouver. -- Joan Tracy, Cheney

Answer: Our new wire editors, who handle our national and international report, are in the process of developing new protocols and priorities, hoping to sharpen our report's focus on regions and events that have real relevance to our communities. That would likely mean more news out of Canada and, probably, Latin America.

But our wire space is limited, so there still will be times when major events in other parts of the world take priority. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why stories two days in a row online?

Question: I really enjoy the online version of S-R, but because articles are repeated, sometimes for several days in a row, it's difficult to navigate quickly through recent news. Speed, efficiency, and ease of use are important to me, but sorting through the old articles impairs that. Would it be possible to have a version each day with only that day's news? -- Rob Rutherford

Answer: Interesting question. Stories should never appear online several days in a row. The site is updated every day by about 6 a.m. Under two possible scenarios, stories sometimes will appear two days in a row: 1) A couple of days in recent weeks we've experienced dual-server replication problems, in which half our readers might have seen the previous day's paper. This problem was fixed by about 10 a.m. each time; and 2) We regularly publish "breaking news" stories on the Web site the afternoon before they show up in print. Those same stories, or updated versions, are then cycled through the normal publication process and show up as part of the next day's newspaper online. Think of it as getting your news a day early! -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

A few online mysteries

Question: Why no pictures in the online version of the S-R? Is the $25 reproduction fee for 8x10s that special? Or is it a bandwidth problem?

And how does the paper go about defining and allocating stories to a specific section online? What makes a story a "Region" story instead of a "Business" or "In Life" or cover section story?

A good example would be the great work being done by Alison Boggs. I find her stories on the Summit development, tax breaks for historic preservation, and Carnegie Square are all great local stories that were featured in Business. I'm just thinking that the Region gets more eyeballs than Region, and these are good, important stories.

Thanks for the time. And the great work online, blogging, and everything. -- D. Hughes, Spokane

Answer: We do publish photos on our Web site. Typically, the photos appear on the same pages as the text of the stories that accompanied the photos in print. We also sometimes post photos on the cover page, especially with breaking news stories. The photos that are placed online are purposely of a lower resolution so that page download times are faster. Lower resolution photos don't print out very well, either, so if someone wants a good reproduction, they're going to have to purchase it.

Choosing which stories go in which sections online is a manual process for the next couple of months, until our new computer system is rolled out. At that time the authors and their editors will choose which "tags" to put on each story that will determine how it is categorized online. We hope that will make the process easier and more user-friendly. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

What about all of those chronic offenders?

Question: Crime and the criminal justice system in our community, as in most communities, is a very important issue to the majority of the citizens. The S-R routinely runs briefs on wanted suspects who have rewards posted by Secret Witness. Invariably these suspects have multiple convictions, sometimes to the point of insanity. What happens to these suspects when they are captured? Why doesn't the paper do a follow-up on some of the worst ones to let readers know if the "system" finally works and some of these chronic offenders are dealt with appropriately? Or do they get tossed back into our community to offend again? I think it would be very interesting and informative to do a follow-up on some of these. -- Chris Powell, Spokane

Answer: Good question. It would be a huge undertaking for us to follow up on the hundreds of cases that go through the local court system each month, but your suggestion to look at some of the chronic offenders is a good one and I will ask our metro staff to consider this as a possible story. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

What about the newspaper's responsibility as a community member?

Question: In your editorial of Jan. 4, 2004, the editoral board's guiding principles were listed. I am astounded that you mention only personal liberty and personal responsibility. How does the only daily newspaper in the community function with no awareness of its place as a community member
and a fundamental principle of democracy: community membership and the rights and responsibility that go with that for citizens, organizations, businesses (including the newspaper)? The S-R falls far short of what Spokane needs and deserves in this category. -- Elaine Tyrie, Spokane

Answer: Our editorial board is very mindful of our responsibilities within the democratic framework. It's for that reason we have dedicated a substantial amount of space as a public forum for community members who write letters to the editor and guest columns.

I think you would find universal agreement among our board members that the purpose of a newspaper is to give readers the information they need to do their duty as citizens in a self-governing society. Having said that, there are always ways we can do the job better. Every day's editorial and op-ed page content reflects dozens of decisions about what we can squeeze into that space and what we have to pass up. However, I hope any reader with ideas to pass along will get in touch with me at 459-5466 or dougf@spokesman.com. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Give me better ice skating coverage

Question: Last week I saw in the newspaper that Spokane was one of two cities still in the running for the ice skating tournament. However, the TV news reported this the week before. This seems like it should have been treated like bigger news by the newspaper. This would be a huge event for Spokane. Why did it take the newspaper so long to report it?

Another ice skating event was also down played by the newspaper - Michelle Kwan skated a perfect 10 at the Nationals, which is rare. While I am not an ice skating fanatic, it does seem like the newspaper has chosen not to give the attention to these events that they deserve. -- Gayle L. Bender, Spokane

Answer 1: I agree that being host to the Figure Skating Championships would be a great boon to Spokane, and all of our news departments would cover it in great detail. We reported the story on the selection process as quickly as we could commit staff to it. We are committed to reporting news when we know it.

Sometimes, however, it becomes a question of resources. If there are more immediate stories to report in the region, we will divert our attention elsewhere. It's a daily balancing act, because there is obviously so much vying for our attention and space. Rest assured that we understand the significance of the event, and have plans in place to cover the competition. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Answer 2: Actually, Michelle Kwan's performance was a perfect 6. Gymnastics would be the perfect 10. And we didn't overlook this event. We ran a picture of Kwan and a complete wrapup of nationals. The next day we followed with another story calling her one of the greatest skaters ever. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

Write more about city government

Question: Why is there so little coverage of the miserable state of snow removal in Spokane? Not that there aren't plenty of snow stories and pictures, but I never see any editorial comment about the low level of service by the city.

I'd also like to see an in-depth analysis of the city budget proposals before the annual budget is adopted by the council. You can't get a copy of the budget until it is printed (and therefore adopted). There would be a better opportunity for informed public input if we knew more beforehand. I know budget stuff will put you to sleep in 30 seconds or less, but it seems to me some smart person at the S-R could put some thumbnail sketches together that would be meaningful to people who aren't sure what FY stands for, let alone the political backrooming that usually characterizes budget negotiations. -- Meg McCoy, Spokane

Answer: We have covered the issue of snow removal several times and continue to monitor both the weather and the city's snow plow response. Your question refers to "editorial comment.'' Please know that the news reporters on the City Desk are not to be confused with editorial writers who write opinions. Our mission on the City Desk is to present news issues so that citizens can make their own informed decisions. Our role is to act as a watchdog, but not to editorialize. We do track the city's budget, but have not put detailed budgetary numbers to this particular snow removal issue, but can certainly look at doing that. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Candidates owe real answers, not spin

Question: I have a feeling that we are not getting reliable information from our political candidates. I keep hearing bytes and redundancies like "tax break for the rich" and "a new America." Blahblahblah.

What can we, and what can you as a newspaper editor, do to garner real information we can use to make informed decisions as citizens? I'm not obtuse and I am listening; there must be a way, but politicians do make it difficult.

How can we ask the questions that will get real answers? -- John A. Perry

Answer: The writer echoes the frustration of most journalists who try to cover campaigns. There is so much spin, so much emphasis on the horse race and inattention to real issues, that voters are not particularly well served.

Our goal here is to focus on issues and pay less attention or ignore the meaningless sound and fury that accompanies major campaigns. When given the opportunity, we'll ask issues-oriented questions of the candidates. We'll use as a guide the survey work we do, which focuses on issues important to local citizens. We'll also give preference to wire stories that deal in issues.

Last weekend, we published something we call an issues grid for the remaining Democratic hopefuls. The grid was an effort to synthesize from their writings and speeches candidate positions on a variety of issues. We'll periodically update those grids during the primary season and then develop a comparable grid to be run regularly throughout the fall campaign.

All of our issues-based coverage will have web components, as well. (Such as our "blind" quiz on the Democratic candidates.) -- Steve Smith, editor

'Doug Clark goes, or we do'

Question: This very evening I exclaimed to my husband, "It's time to let the Spokesman-Review know that either Doug Clark goes, or we do. We are totally incompatible." My husband, a wise and learned man, does not read Doug Clark, an option I more often than not also exercise. However, three of his recent columns piqued my attention.

Mr. Clark's "Gee, I need attention" nonsensical camp-out at the Lincoln Statue encourages me to invite him to spend an evening at "Cup of Cool Water" -- a downtown ministry whose dedicated volunteers bring hope and encouragement to Spokane's increasing number of homeless teens. If Mr. Clark could muster a shred of sensitive compassion; if he could keep his uneducated, unfunny comments on homelessness in check; and if he could raise himself to a level of charitable understanding, he may gain deeper understanding of an issue about which he so frivolously writes.

The misleading headline of Clark's Tuesday column (Feb. 3) -- "Half-time show outrages writer" captured hopeful attention from this reader. Sadly, that hope was quickly dashed upon reading the sub headline (he missed it). Assuredly this is the last Clark drivel I'll read. I don't read The National Inquirer, Playboy, or like publications, but suspect his crass, tasteless writing would be acceptable filler in the compost they market as "journalism."

Indeed then, my question about the ethical practices of The Spokesman-Review. Are you a family-friendly newspaper, or are you not? -- Colleen Welch

Answer: Are we a family newspaper or not? Good question. Newspapers are the last mass-market news medium left in the United States (as TV slides into more tightly focused niche programmingg and radio news all but disappears). Because we serve the mass market, we know that our readership will include people of all ages and all walks of life. Still, we try to edit the newspaper with thinking adults in mind. A newspaper edited entirely for "family-friendly" content would not serve the news needs of an information-hungry adult audience, at least not responsibly.

As a mass-market medium, I accept that people will read us selectively. Few people read every word. And I believe that if people don't like something we're offering, comic or columnist, news story or puzzle, their best option is to simply pass it by on their way to content they find interesting or acceptable. And I believe parents are perfectly capable of determining what parts of the newspaper (or TV programming or movies or music) are appropriate for their youngsters.

I realize this answer will not satisfy those who find Doug Clark (or any of our writers) to be distasteful. But to people who don't like Doug, my response is "just don't read him." -- Steve Smith, editor

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

How long should I wait for letter to the editor?

Question: Once I submit an article for consideration in the Roundtable section how will I know if if is still being considered after several weeks. In the past I never knew if the piece is still under consideration after several weeks or the editorial staff had ruled the article out for publication in the Spokesman-Review.

This confusion prevents me from sending it to other publications. Also the newsworthiness of the articles dims with time or the news peg for the article. Should I announce I am removing the article after so much time or just assume that you will not print my piece if I do not see it in the Spokesman-Review in a few weeks? Please advise. -- Jospeh Wood

Answer: If you've included a telephone number where you can be reached during normal business hours (we call to verify the authorship), and haven't heard anything within a week, it may just mean that we're swamped, but it probably means the letter is not under consideration for publication. We've considered mailing out a postcard or e-mail notice in such cases but at present it's a matter of limited resources. In the meantime, if you are confident that your letter is within the 200-word limit, you haven't had another letter published within the past 30 days, and it deals with a legitimate issue of public interest, then give us a call and we'll check it out. You can reach letters coordinator Fern Christenson at 459-5428 or me at 459-5466. If you get voicemail, please leave a clear message and we'll return your call as soon as we can. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Two readers: 'Give us more...'

Comment 1: I am sending this link and information to you because I am outraged at the Bush administration's attempt to circumvent any accountability for misleading this nation into war and I am hoping that The Spokesman-Review will do an article showing the truth of what is George W. Bush's attempt to circumvent accountability in misleading this country to war through coercion and ignoring valid warnings many times in the runup to the beginning of the second Gulf War in March. -- Ronald D. Reed, Chattaroy

Comment 2: I think you could create a really cool point/counterpoint article section where readers could submit articles they've found, or links to articles, on each side of an issue. Occasionally print one from each side in the Sunday paper as a special section. More work for you, but it could be interesting, and it would be a good source of interesting material for your old fashioned paper and ink brethren at the S-R. -- Scott Schmidtman, Spokane

Reply: We do have two forums, one for local issues, and one for Iraq-related issues, where readers do share links to stories they've found.

But both of you point to a key problem: we're not able to print enough news and analysis, from enough different perspectives, to satisfy all of our readers. It's interesting to see how sophisticated readers use the Internet to find things that don't show up on our wire services. In coming months we plan to experiment with publishing the work of "citizen bloggers" on our Web site. We hope this will offer a little more depth and some different perspectives to our online report. As always, we will strive for balance. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

 
 
 
 
 
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