Readers often ask about the editorials and columns that appear on the opinion pages, especially how choices are made and by whom. So in the spirit of transparency, and in hope of encouraging reader participation, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from readers of The Press Democrat's editorial and Forum pages.

<b>What is the purpose of the editorial page?</b>

Our role is to comment on the news, to express the views of the editorial board and to provide a forum for readers to express their opinions. Our objective is to provide a variety of perspectives on local, state, national and international issues.

<b>Who decides the paper's editorial views?</b>

The editorial board consists of Sonoma Media Investments CEO Steve Falk, Editorial Director Paul Gullixson and Assistant Editorial Director Jim Sweeney. They meet regularly to discuss potential editorials, research issues and come to agreement on what positions to take on key issues. They also meet with policymakers and other newsmakers to learn more about local issues.

<b>Does the newsroom participate in planning editorials?</b>

No one in the newsroom assigns or writes editorials, and no one from the editorial pages assigns, reports or edits news articles.

<b>May I write for the opinion pages?</b>

Yes. We publish letters to the editor each day, and we frequently publish Close to Home opinion columns written by local readers. Our Close to Home authors are usually individuals with a particular expertise or background in the subjects they write about.

<b>How do I submit a letter?</b>

Letters should be no more than 200 words long and must include the names, addresses and phone numbers of no more than two authors. Only the authors' names and hometowns appear in print.

Letters should be sent to letters@pressdemocrat.com. We prefer to receive letters via email -#8212; and they are more likely to be published -#8212; because they don't need to be retyped. Close to Home columns also should be sent to letters@pressdemocrat.com.

<b>Do you publish letters that express views contrary to the paper's editorial stance?</b>

Yes. In fact, we welcome contrary views. The opinion pages are intended to reflect a full spectrum of viewpoints.

<b>Do letters and Close to Home columns appear on your website?</b>

Yes. Almost everything that appears on the editorial and forum pages also appears on pressdemocrat.com. We also use the website for extra letters and columns.

We also have the Inside Opinion blog, which features news bites and short commentaries by Paul Gullixson and Jim Sweeney. It is available on WatchSonomaCounty.com. You also can find our weekly caption contest at WatchSonomaCounty.com.

<b>Who chooses the columnists who appear in the paper?</b>

Opinion page columns, commentaries and editorials from other newspapers are selected by the editorial board.

<b>Do columnists reflect the paper's views?</b>

Not necessarily. As with picking letters, our goal is to publish voices from across the political spectrum. Regular columnists include conservatives such as George F. Will, David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer and liberals such as Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne Jr. We also try to include columnists who focus on California issues, including George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times and Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee.

<b>What about the editorial cartoons?</b>

Editorial cartoons also reflect a range of views, including such conservatives as Lisa Benson and Gary Varvel and such liberals as Tom Toles and Clay Bennett. Here, too, we like to feature cartoonists who focus on California, especially Benson and Tom Meyer.

<b>How do I contact the editorial board?</b>

You may call Editorial Director Paul Gullixson at 521-5282, or you can email him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com. You may call Assistant Editorial Director Jim Sweeney at 521-5201 or email him at jim.sweeney@pressdemocrat.com.