Plea for more pet coverage

Question: Human interest stories abound in your paper, but animal interest stories are sadly lacking. Why do you not give more attention to our three local shelters and their activities concerning the tremendous pet overpopulation problem? Case in point ... Saturday, June 12 Spokane Humane Society's "Parade of Paws" dog walk. Over 250 people participated. Many walked shelter dogs -- over a dozen were adopted. Yet, we found no coverage of this outstanding event. Also, why not a Pet of the Week picture? Your help is badly needed! -- Bob Anderlik, Liberty Lake

Answer: As an animal lover myself, I completely agree with you. We have a tremendous problem in this region with unwanted pets and violence against pets. Unfortunately, we have to balance the importance of those stories with other non-animal news stories. Sometimes the humans win. We certainly could have covered the Parade of Paws, but we were reporting other events and issues instead. We have done pet adoption promotions in the past through the Circulation and Features departments and they've been popular and successful. I'm certain we'll continue to do those from time to time. I believe The Spokesman-Review has done a pretty good job of covering the issues of pet abuse. We regularly write stories about illegal shelters. We've done numerous stories about management of the various shelter entities in the region. We've even addressed the topic of pet violence as it relates to domestic violence. But, you're right. There's always more to do - on that topic and dozens of others. -- Carla Savalli, city editor

We need a 7 for families

Question: Would you consider having a separate page or section for children's/family events, rather than having the events listed in "7"? It doesn't seem as if children's/family events "fit" into the style of "7". I for one do not appreciate having to page through articles about gay lifestyle issues, sexual relationship columns ("Sexcetera"), language like "kickass" (in the movies section) - which I'm teaching my children NOT to use - to find events that are appropriate for my children! "7" seems to be very narrowly focused on 20-something singles. While it might be worthwhile to have such a section, it doesn't fit the needs of families, particularly families with young children. "Weekend" seemed to reach a broader audience. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion. -- Christy Thomas, Spokane Valley

Answer: The writer is one step ahead of us. Look for a new 7-for-families feature, including events calendars, columns, etc., on our Monday In-Life cover beginning next month. -- Steve Smith, editor

Bias in photo selection?

Question: Nice picture of the back of the President's head. Your left wing politics is so apparent and you are in good company with CBS who are also shamefully left in their politics instead of just reporting news. Your front page picture is just another reason that I avoid buying your paper. I used to be a loyal customer for many years until I got wise. Shame on you! Don't you know we are at war and should put these childlike behaviors aside and unite as a nation behind our leader and commander in chief. I bet if Bill Clinton or Hillary came to town, you would get the picture right as you did with John Kerry. I will continue to sound the alarm to my friends to stay away from your biased newspaper. -- Mark Maye

Answer 1: I'm disappointed that you have managed to read something sinister into our extensive coverage of President Bush's visit last week. You could not be more wrong in assigning some left wing political motivation behind the selection of our front-page photo of the president. I thought it was an excellent photo that captured the obvious excitement of the adoring crowd. We thought the photo was especially compelling and appropriate because the joy of several people from the region was clearly evident. The photo in question was very reflective of the warm reception the president was receiving as he worked the crowd. I noticed in your note that you did not acknowledge the three other photos we published that clearly showed President Bush at various stages of his visit. I might add that one of the photos showing the president with George Nethercutt was on the front page. -- Gary Graham, managing editor

Answer 2: Our photo editors look for display photographs that capture the essence of an event. The lead picture for the report of President Bush's visit captured the wild enthusiasm of the local crowd, which was enthralled by the president and thrilled by his visit. It was a positive photo in every way and captured the essence of a presidential visit to a community. The secondary photo showed the president in full-frame, and the inside coverage, in color, certainly was complete and respectful. We continue to hear from political partisans whose concept of fair coverage is coverage that reflects their own personal political passions. I have to place this communication in that category. -- Steve Smith, editor

Yes, we did make a mistake

Question: Don't you think it is libelous to make flat statements like in Kevin Taylor's piece today about CdA Lake that there are 75 million tons of heavy metals in the lake bottom? I have tried to correct various Spokesman writers regarding this lie for years. Just read the references by USGS and get the numbers right. A retraction/correction would be nice to see also. -- Fred Brackebusch, Kellogg

Answer: The writer is correct, there was a mistake in the story. A correction was printed in Wednesday's paper (6/16). The correct figure is 77 million tons. -- Steve Smith, editor

Sniffing barstools?

Question: I'm as progressive as I can be as a 50-something Spokalooite. But c'mon..."sniffing barstools" as a topic in the Friday entertainment section? I don't care if "7" is a feeble attempt to get younger people to read the daily newspaper, you folks have taken one deep step into the gutter.

Please don't tell me that, "if I'm offended, I don't have to read it." I want to know what I can do in Spokane on the weekend so I' going to open this section. Then, it was in the headline on the first inside page, so I was offended even before I got to read the citizens comments. The name of the article sums it up for The Spokesman-Review: "Bad choices." -- Al Gilson, Spokane

Answer: We've taken some complaints from readers who believe "7" is offensive for one reason or another. We've taken far more compliments from readers who find it interesting, stimulating, contemporary. We've had a few dropped subscriptions. But "7" is selling far more papers than Weekend. And our advertisers love it. Not all parts of the paper are for all people. I can only say again, if you see something in the paper you don't like, just pass it by. -- Steve Smith, editor

Where are the faces?

Question: In recent weeks I've noticed a number of photos of individuals whose heads have been cropped or not photographed at all. Or the subject is facing away from the camera so we can only guess who it is. Even a horse and rider were reduced to only horse ears and a riding helmet. Is this a new trend? This reader still likes to see faces, even columnists' faces! -- Kathy Berrigan, Kettle Falls

Answer: This is not a new trend. Unfortunately, in our haste to be creative, to provide a new angle on something that is otherwise familiar, we can allow artistic values to overtake news values. Sometimes the best photo is the simplest. This e-mail is a timely reminder. -- Steve Smith, editor

Reader: 'Tearing at the very fabric of our society'

Question: Steve Smith answered Laurie Johnson's suggestion to consider eliminating a "gay" column from the new 7. His answer has left me pondering whether I wish to continue to subscribe to the S/R. He presents the question as simply one of varying religious beliefs which causes me to wonder how an editor can become so narrow in his thinking.

Of course, it is true that various religious teachings condemn homosexual behavior, however, that is only one part of the social situation. There is a rather long historical definition of marriage in most societies around the world that limits the word to that institutional recognition of the union of one man and one woman and, of course, any observant person can easily see that those unions, with the resulting children, are the basis of continuing society through the family unit.

To fail to see such a basic common human condition as the norm seems quite amazing to me. To pretend that people have a "right" to extend the historical definition of marriage to same sex unions is to deny the most precious and basic truth about the very foundation of society. Therefore I find Steve Smith's answer to be poorly thought out and shallow. Homosexual behavior is detrimental to the continuation of humans and to pretend otherwise is ludicrous.

Steve Smith's description of the "mantra" of the S/R editorial staff makes you sound like purveyors of information without any need for intelligent selection. If that is indeed the case I suggest you can delegate the editorial process to a computer program and the staff could then look for other work.

I'm looking forward to seeing a follow up article in the S/R that more completely addresses this issue and makes the S/R staff look more informed about this very important issue that is currently tearing at the very fabric of our society. Please do not continue to reduce it to a controversy between various religions as it is far more extensive than! that. -- Jack Hall, Post Falls

Answer: It's interesting to me that your response to my remarks deals with gay marriage, an issue I never raised and which, to my knowledge, has not been referenced at all in the 7 column.

In any event, my position is well thought out, is consistent with journalistic practice and the ethical foundations of our profession. It represents an exercise of editorial judgment and, I believe, requires no additional explanation. I thought I was pretty clear, certainly direct.

But my position is not your position. That's probably the only area of agreement between us.

We're going to continue to reflect the lives of all citizens of our community, even those you find unacceptable. I would no more pull the gay/lesbian column from 7 than I would pull the Rev. Steve Massey's Saturday column that consistently reflects conservative religious views toward homosexuality and gay marriage. Both have a place in our paper.

I respect the right of all readers to choose what they read. It appears you have some choices to make. Please know that I respect and value your right to make those decisions. -- Steve Smith, editor

Who chooses Mariners game stories?

Question: Regarding Mariner baseball: It appears that you have at least four sources for reporting Mariner games: Associated Press, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald and the Seattle Times. What/who dictates which source you will choose to report this evening's game in tomorrow's paper? -- Reg Morgan, Coulee Dam

Answer: Several factors play into the decision. Timeliness is important. Sometimes, because of deadlines, the choices are limited. We may only have an Associated Press story on a late game. If we do have more than one choice, we decide simply by choosing the article we like the best. We prefer stories that focus on the Mariners' situation and the Mariners' reaction. Sometimes, if space is an issue, we will pick the story that best fits the space we have available. -- Joe Palmquist, sports editor

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