Where are the softball scores online?

Question: I was just wondering where to look online for the girls "Prep" softball scores. -- Chad Hogan

Answer: We're in the middle of a computer installation, so couldn't build the online prep sports databases for spring sports this year (like we did for football, volleyball and basketball). We plan to do it next year, though. In the meantime, we do have those scores in the sports pages of the printed paper. And if there's a softball story in the printed paper, like there was today , you can see that story online by looking at the headlines in our online sports section. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Do I have to pay to read the paper online?

Question: I'm just wondering why I can't get your paper online when I get it at my door. I pay for the daily paper, but sometimes I like to just check something out while on the computer. Do I have to pay for another subscription to do that? -- Gerald Stinnett

Answer: You most certainly can see the contents of the paper online for free. Every day, at www.spokesmanreview.com you will see headlines of every story that was in that day's newspaper. The first time you visit our site, you will be asked to register. That registration (for now) is free. Even if we some day start charging for that, print subscribers like yourself will still be able to read that day's stories online for free.

The only part of our Web site (other than archives) that costs money is if you want to see the paper in a format that is an identical copy of each page of the printed newspaper. We have to charge for that because it costs a lot of money to produce. In fact, that reproduction is done for us by a company called "Newsstand," which splits the proceeds with us. There is no way we could offer this expensive reproduction for free, even to print subscribers, because Newsstand would charge us the download fees. We certainly can't afford to lose money on the deal. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Where's the Valley Voice online?

Question: Is there a way to find the special section online called Valley Voice? -- Kim Cameron

Answer: The Valley Voice content right now is not separated out from other Valley content online. That's an interesting idea, though, and one that we may pursue as we convert to a new computer system in the next two months.
In the meantime, the Voice comes out in the Valley on Thursdays and Saturdays, so look on those days for Valley content to see what's in the Voices. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

How do you know which comics readers want?

Question: Thanks for asking us to respond. A few days ago one reader commented on the comic strip section. It's hard to know what comics your readers want. So why not survey your readers? Have three categories:
Good!, Mediocre, Dull & Duh. Grade the comic on artwork and humor or drama appeal. I'm used to comics from the past that are well drawn and they were really funny. Now they are getting dumber, with Mutts at the bottom of the list. -- Larry Clark, Spokane

Answer: Oddly enough, the selection of comics is often one of the more challenging and even controversial tasks we face in the newsroom. Simply put, there's no easy way to determine which comics are widely popular and which ones should be replaced. We've asked readers to rate our comics in the past, but as InLife editor Jamie Tobias Neely notes, such surveys are unscientific. "Respondents are self-selecting, which means we're going to only hear from those readers who have the time and interest to fill out a survey," she says. "Most surveys are answered primarily by older readers, which leaves us still in the dark about which strips would attract younger and new readers."

Neely also explains that "without formal polling, we rely on a number of methods of evaluating our comics pages. We listen to feedback from readers, we pay attention to comics poll results from other papers, and we search for comic strips that have been particularly popular elsewhere. In the end, it usually comes down to editors relying on their experience and best judgment in selecting new comics that will appeal to our readers." -- Gary Graham, managing editor

What happened to Heritage Hunting?

Question: What happened to Heritage Hunting? First it was available every Sunday. Then the editors decided to publish it every other Friday or something like that. Then they changed their minds again and decided to print it every Friday. But now, I can't find it anywhere. I live in the Tri-Cities and used to purchase your paper whenever it was available down here. Then one day, I was told that it would no longer be available in this area. So, I learned to remain content with catching up on my home town online. I have always looked forward to reading Heritage Hunting. It was one of the highlights of my day. So, can you lend me a hand and let me know where I can find it? -- Cindy Nelson, Kennewick

Answer: Sorry for the confusion. We should have done a better job of telling readers what's happening with the Heritage Hunting column. The previous writer has resigned from writing this column and we're currently searching for a replacement. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Not necessary to wash?

Question: I read the column by Dr. Gott each week. A few questions: What are his credentials? It seems that he is always pushing a publication or two each week that he has written. A few weeks ago he said it is not necessary to wash your hands when leaving the washroom. To me, this was way off the wall. It goes against motherhood and apple pie. Other than the two letters that you published about the subject, did you receive much of a response? -- Reg Morgan, Coulee Dam

Answer: I've added Dr. Gott's official biography to this response so that readers can judge for themselves his qualifications.

I guess the primary point to make is that newspaper advice columnists, whether medical, etiquette or personal or whatever, have to be viewed with a certain grain of salt. They try to deal with complex problems and issues in a short space and so avoid the sort of detailed and truly meaningful answers a person might get from a personal physician or adviser.

Taken in that spirit, the Dr. Gott's of the world are pretty harmless. On the hand-washing issue, we took only a few calls and ran all of the letters received, so the response wasn't significant. Here is the good doctor's biography:

Dr. Peter Gott combines the empathy of an old-fashioned family doctor with the outspoken fervor of a patients' rights advocate in his nationally syndicated column, Dr. Gott. A general internist in practice in Connecticut since 1966, Dr. Gott responds to readers' medical questions with sensitivity and accuracy. His daily column has been syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association since 1984. Dr. Gott devotes six days each week to answering readers' medical questions, and one day each week to his own health-related commentary. No House Calls (Simon & Schuster, 1986) is a collection of some of Dr. Gott's columns. Dr. Gott is a graduate of Princeton University and Tulane Medical School. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why so many mistakes?

Question: You seem to have a lot of mistakes listed in the "Accuracy watch." Don't the reporters check their sources for spellings and the like?
I see a lot of reporting errors. Why is that? -- Janet M. Culbertson, Spokane

Answer: Reporters check their sources. They check spelling and grammar. And we have editors and copy editors reading behind reporters. Most news stories are handled by four to six people before they are published.

Still, with all of the checks, balances and double checks, errors are made. Sometimes they are the result of carelessness on the part of someone in the editing chain. A misspelled name is often the result of a mis-read set of notes or a simple typo on the part of a writer or editor. Sometimes errors are more substantive and are the result of mistaken assumptions or fill-in-the-blanks writing.

We track all of our mistakes so that we can solve institutional problems that might contribute to inaccuracy. We recentyly discovered that through an unfortunate chain of events, one regular feature is no longer edited as carefully as it has been edited in the past. In the weeks our attention has been diverted, we've recorded an unacceptable number of mistakes. Now that we've figured that out, we're able to restore the editing steps that were missing and that should solve the problem.

More than a year ago The Spokesman-Review launched a vigorous accuracy watch program and we moved our corrections to a prominent position in the paper -- the local news front. These were important steps in making manifest our committment to accuracy. But one side effect of vigorous attention to accuracy is that more errors are identified. So our corrections column has grown in size while the actual number of errors probably has not increased or decreased all that much from previous years.

But that trade-off is a good one as a vigorous and transparent accuracy policy is, in the end, good for a newspaper's credibility. -- Steve Smith, editor

Re-visit human interest stories to let us know what happened

Question: Occasionaally you print an article recounting the sad story of a person or family having unusual difficulties, such as the loss of their home and belongings by fire (with no insurance), or a devastating illness without enough funds for special surgeries, etc., with the closing stating that donations may be sent to a bank account set up for that purpose.

Several times I have responded to that need, but have received no information that the family even received the money, nor has there been a follow-up in your paper, with the news of whether the person was able to have the surgery, nor how they are doing - such as a baby girl recently whose families health insurance would cover only one cochlear implant and she needed two. I'd like to know whether they received enough funds for the second implant and if she is now hearing. I'd also like to know about the results for the little boy with one leg so much shorter than other. Surely the other people who responded with help for these families would also be interested to know the end of the story! -- Phyllis J. Brooks, Spokane

Answer: Your question points to a common failing by the media - we don't do as well as we should in following up on the stories we write. Most of the reason for that is because every day there is new news to report. Because of time and space and staff constraints, we must devote most of our resources to looking forward rather than backward.

However, I admit to you that the media also has a short attention span; we move from breaking news story to breaking news story. And, it's often in the smaller, quieter stories that we could make the larger impact. We often forget that. I can't promise that we'll go back and revisit the stories you mention here, but I can pledge to do a better job at updating those stories in our local community that people seem to respond and reach out to. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Why no pictures of LC girls at state?

Question: Christopher Anderson must not like Lewis and Clark. There were no pictures of the LC vs Bethel game (in the girls 4A state tournament). He sure had enough pictures of Central Valley and University High on the S-R Web site. Why? What was his problem? -- Barry January

Answer: Good question. The simple answer is that the LC game was so late at night (two nights in a row) that he had to spend that time transmitting his pictures from the other games so that we could meet deadline for the printed newspaper. Unfortunately, that meant he missed the LC game. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Where are the online obits?

Question: Why have you stopped publishing the obituaries on the internet? -- Bill Minnick

Answer: We have not stopped. We are having trouble with our online obits as we convert to a new computer system. We're working on it. In the meantime, of course, all of our obituaries are in the printed newspaper every day. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

Why re-run Peanuts?

Question: Why do you continue running a comic strip by a dead man? Been there, done that. I think even Charles Schulze himself would say, "Hey, give my space to a young struggling cartoonist who is still alive and well and needs the cash." Who needs re-runs in the newspaper? -- Teresa Keene, Spokane

Answer: There is some controversy in newspaper/syndicate/cartoonist circles over the continuation of strips after the originating artist/authors have retired or died. We run several strips now penned by replacement cartoonists or cartoonist teams, "Dennis the Menace,'' may be the best known example, "Blondie," too. Syndicates hire replacements to continue strips because the characters have become part of the fabric of readers' lives -- readers don't want them to die with their authors -- and because they don't want to lose cash cows established strips represent. (Keep in mind, it's not just the strips, but all of that licensing income that can be at stake).

In the case of "Peanuts," Charles Schulz refused to turn his strip over to a replacement on his retirement or death. However, faced with overwhelming public demand, the estate and the syndicate agreed to re-run the "Peanuts' collection for some period of time, perhaps indefinitely. The re-runs work on many levels. He strip was not topical so has a timeless quality. And the work was so good, it remains as funny and fresh as ever and far funnier and fresher than many of the alternatives available.

I'm not opposed to giving new, struggling cartoonists a try...but there aren't many quality options out there and much of the new material we see move across our desks is pretty dreadful.

Meanwhile, "Peanuts" retains much of its audience and so has a place on our pages. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why new religion commentator?

Question: I was curious as to why the paper made a change in the writers for the Saturday in life religion commentary. -- Charles Clemens, Spokane

Answer: We added Steve Massey, a former assistant city editor at this newspaper turned full-time pastor, because his views are somewhat more conservative than those of long-time columnist Paul Graves. The combination gives us a local religion column every week instead of every two weeks and provides a wider range of views than before. -- Steve Smith, editor

Why leave out local stock listing?

Question: I'm curious why The Timken Co. has been chosen frequently to be omitted from the daily stock quotations. On the same dates, it has been listed in the CdA Press. The president and CEO, James W. Griffith, is a graduate of Wallace High School and was a Spokesman-Review carrier for four years while he was a student there. The April 5 issue of FORTUNE magazine will carry a great article in a special advertising section about the revitalization of this 105-year old company. -- Gratia H. Griffith, Hayden

Answer: We publish daily stock quotes for 1,050 companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That list changes daily, however, depending on which stocks had the highest trading volume on any given day. That's why The Timken Co. would appear some days and not others. Like many newspapers, we've adopted that method to help balance the space devoted to stock listings with our daily coverage of business news.

Timken does appear in our expanded stock listings that are published in our free weekly Investments section, which is inserted in the Saturday paper by request. If you don't currently receive that section, you can call (800) 338-8801 Ext. 7000 to start the service. Thanks for letting us know about the Timken connection to the Inland Northwest. I'll be more alert to news of the company in the future. -- Addy Hatch, business editor

What happened to online feedback?

Question: How come there aren't any "reader feedback comment forms" at the bottom of the stories anymore? -- Jeff Danner

Answer: For a couple of reasons, we have discontinued the practice of publishing reader feedback that was collected at the end of stories published online.

First, it was very labor-intensive to gather that feedback. Once a day on weekdays, an editor had to read through each of the comments to make sure they weren't libelous, or obscene, etc. That also meant the comments weren't posted in a timely manner, especially comments posted from Friday through Sunday.

Second, a small number of readers habitually commented on numerous stories every day; it never was intended to be a platform for individual users to repeatedly air their political or social views.

Third, many of the comments were rude and obnoxious. The intent of reader feedback was to allow for constructive criticism, offer candid commentary and/or suggestions. Too often the comments were uncivil and pointless.

We've had the very same problems with several of our online forums, where users are able to post their comments instantly, without review by S-R staff. And that's why we have suspended the news and opinion forums.

Still, we are committed to the idea that the delivery of news should involve a conversation between the newspaper and its readers. We are trying to figure out better ways of facilitating meaningful conversation that adds -- rather than detracts -- from civil discussion of important issues in our community and world. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

How to get club listing

Question: Please teach me how to regularly submit an announcement for our club's meeting into the community events column of your newspaper. -- Kim Long, Spokane

Answer: We publish lists for all kinds of club meetings in the InLife section. If you would like to submit an announcement for your club's meeting, you can either send it via e-mail to lisal@spokesman.com, or address by regular mail to Clubs, The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, WA 99201. The list is published on a space available basis, so we can't guarantee publication on a specific date. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Scale needed with Mars images

Question: When you publish images from Mars, would it be possible to have some sort of scale published with the images so we can obtain an idea as to how large an area is being covered? -- Reg Morgan, Coulee Dam

Answer: Your suggestion on providing scale for the Mars images is a good one. I'll share it with our editors and we'll try to provide some kind of comparative information the next time we have some new photos from Mars. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Hold police accountable

Question: Spokane is slowly being enveloped by the drug culture. From burglaries, car break-ins, credit card fraud, check fraud, vandalism, gang graffiti, assaults and car thefts to 80-year-old women assaulted, robbed and put in the hospital because the criminals know that 80 percent of all crimes committed in this city will not be investigated, the SPD's biggest presence of the year on the South Hill is this; A five day speed trap on 29th Avenue.

Why isn't The Spokesman-Review putting the screws to a police force more concerned with publicizing revenue generation, extensive and time-wasting speed trap cartoons, jaywalking tickets and asking suspects to nicely turn themselves in than preventing crime? -- Mike Harmon, Spokane

Answer: We report on a variety of crimes and criminal proceedings in the course of a week or month's time. We hope those stories help the reader understand the serious nature of crime in this community, but we realize that's only one part of the story. We will look for more opportunities to report stories that will arm readers with information they need to protect themselves and to avoid risks. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Why don’t you use local experts to inform national stories?

Question: I understand that most journalists are generalists not experts. Or at least your proficiency is in making information accessible to the those of us who are neophytes in a particular field. I understand that a newspaper is an costly operation and a regional newspaper cannot have its own staff of specialized writers. As a result, you rely to a large degree on national sources.

Is it possible for you to put together panels of local experts on a topic who could shed light and depth on a continuing issue? A good example of a story that needs expertise is the social security question. In the typical report one hears about a news event or a statement by a news maker like the Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan. Then we hear from Democratic and Republican representatives who are spinning the issue to their advantage. Finally, we hear from a spokesperson for an advocacy organization like the AARP.

Douglas Orr is an economics professor at Eastern Washington University and he has good expertise on the issue of social security. I suggest that you find a couple of other well informed people, invite them to a one-half day discussion, have an intern edit and polish their work product and print their thoughts. This would be an inexpensive way to add depth and hopefully originality to your newspaper. -- Frank A. Malone, Spokane

Answer: As you can see from Bert Caldwell's column in Tuesday’s paper, we did use Doug Orr as an expert on the very story you suggested. In fact, Bert has used Orr in the past as an expert source. We look for local experts often, when appropriate, to comment on global or national issues. And, on occasion, we do convene panels as you suggest. You offer a good reminder to look for local experts. And we could be more diligent in seeking out people with whom we are unfamiliar, who are experts in a particular field. -- Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media

More positive, non-sports news about teens

Suggestion: It would be really nice to see more articles about the positive things teens are doing in the community. That would give recognition to teens who have earned it and encourage other teens who are looking for a focus. It's my belief that we place far too much importance on teen sports which end for most teens when high school is over.

We devote a whole section of the newspaper to sports and, additionally, our neighborhood voice has a whole page or sometimes two about sports. So how about a regular weekly feature about teens who excell in other areas? Once a week you could do a page reporting on individual teens who have done something remarkable and giving announcements about upcoming plays, concerts, math, science and engineering competition scores etc. -- Nancy Davis, Spokane

Answer: Spokesman-Review editors try to uphold a set of news and professional values as they make critical news decisions. One of our values, and one we meet regularly, calls for some significant story every day about young people in our community living positive lives.

If you put 30 days of papers on a table and mark such stories with a red marker, you'll be amazed how many you'll find -- and on all of our section fronts, including Page 1.

We have numerous places in the paper where we report other "good news" of young people -- and others, too. So I'm not sure I see the need for a special section, as proposed. (And I don't think the sports comparison quite works).

The best way to do better by young people is to effectively cover education. We do pretty well. Our lead education reporter, Kristy Kromer, is excellent. In a better world, with more resources in place, we would have more staffers covering education, trolling for the sorts of stories suggested by this reader. -- Steve Smith, editor

Exposure, or free advertising?

Question: As a local small business owner, I found the headline on Page 4 of the March 4 South Side Voice, "Overexposed" both ironic and disheartening. There was indeed overexposure going on, and not just by the flashers. I'm curious as to how the editor of that section and the photographer of the piece justify giving the owner of Java Jump what amounts to a free, full-color, 3/4-page ad on the front of that section.

Not only do I see the smiling owner, but I also am able to find out how much they charge for a 20-ounce Americano, their hours of business, and even a phone number for deliveries. Is that standard practice, or did the crop function on your computers mysteriously break down on the day in question? And what can other small business owners like myself who pay for ads in The Spokesman-Review do to get that kind of free ad space? Are there avenues where owners can invite flashers to their businesses? -- Gregory Delzer, Spokane

Answer: I appreciate the writer's concerns. It's tough being a small business owner and I can see how today's Voices story on coffee-stop flashers and robbers might have been seen as providing some businesses an unfair competitive advantage.

However, the story was a legitimate one and numerous coffee shop owners were interviewed. The owner of Java Jump was the main focus of the story because of her recent encounter with a flasher. Editing around her business, in story or photo, would have been difficult and dishonest. We're not trying to give any business a competitive advantage, but we're not editing to exclude details of a business when producing a news story.

Is this free advertising, as the writer suggests? I don't think so. I doubt Java Jump's business will increase as a result of this news report. Local businesses choose to advertise in The Spokesman-Review because newspaper advertising attracts eyes and drives customers to a business. Its effectiveness is not related to news content and editors don't take into consideration advertising imperatives when making their news decisions. -- Steve Smith, editor

What about AIDS Network event?

Question: Haven't seen any news coverage of the Spokane AIDS Network's Oscar Event. Did I miss any follow up stories??? -- Russ Hemphill, Spokane

Answer: We are waiting for Spokane AIDS Network to calculate how much money it raised through its Oscar event, and then we will report that amount and the number of people who attended the very worthwhile event. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

Why no GSL scores in Idaho?

Question: I have often wondered why the results of the Greater Spokane League are not printed in the Idaho edition. There are lots of us living in Idaho who have friends and relatives whose children are involved in sports in Washington. I don't expect stories about the games, but it would be nice to see the line scores, or at least the final score. -- Hobart Jenkins, Bayview, Idaho

Answer: The GSL results should be in the Idaho edition, but because of deadlines, we do have a difficult time getting all the results in time for the Idaho edition. We do, however, have a great database on our Web site that offers all of the scores and the stats from the entire season. The beauty of this database is that you can get results as soon as they come into The Spokesman-Review each game night. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

What about Libertarians?

Question: Being one who is constantly on the lookout for alternative political discussions that are heavy into constructive thought and analysis, I am unaware of any columns of the true third party -- Libertarians -- getting fair time in The Spokesman-Review.

For those of us who are slightly more enlightened on the nature of the stale political machine known as the Republicans and the Democrats, a breath of fresh Libertarian air to clear away that coagulum on occasion would be nice. Any thoughts on why we have a virtual media blackout on this from your newspaper? -- Scott Smith, Chewelah

Answer: You make a valid point. While we've published numerous letters to the editor that articulate views associated with third-party movements (Greens, Libertarians, Ross Perot's followers), our selection of syndicated material has been much more mainstream-oriented. Notwithstanding the occasional op-ed piece from the libertarian Cato Institute, we haven't provided much commentary from third-party or other alternative perspectives. We need to keep a sharper eye out for opportunities to do so. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

Incoherent ramblings

Question: How can we eliminate D.F. Oliveria? His ignorant, incoherent ramblings are an embarrassment; I hide the Review when out-of-town visitors are present. As a teacher I am at a loss to explain why he is tolerated by an
otherwise outstanding publication. -- Ira W. Gardner Sr., Spokane

Answer: Associate Editor D.F. Oliveria sits on The Spokesman-Review's editorial board on behalf of which he writes editorials. He also writes two print columns -- Hot Potatoes and Huckleberries -- in which he expresses his personal views, not necessarily shared by the board. The same is true for his online column, No Holds Barred.

Oliveria's columns, written in a distinctive style, are annoying to some readers and admired and enjoyed by others. We believe it is important to present a variety of styles and viewpoints to appeal to all our readers. Oliveria's columns have won national recognition, by the way. -- Doug Floyd, editorial page editor

How are gas prices tracked?

Question: When you have an article reporting the average price of a gallon of gasoline, is the average for regular, a simple average of the prices for three grades, or a weighted average accounting for the different market shares for the three grades? -- Dave Wordkinger, Medical Lake

Answer: According to the local office of the AAA, when that organization releases gas-price trends, it's always based on the price of regular unleaded. We recently ran an article about gas prices in California based on data from the Energy Information Administration, a unit of the Department of Energy. According to their Web site, that average also is based on a gallon of regular unleaded. More information about gas (and diesel) prices is available from that Web site. -- Addy Hatch, business editor

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