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Readers often ask about the editorials and columns that appear on the opinion pages, especially how choices are made and by whom. This is especially true now that The Press Democrat has been purchased by a group of community-based investors, and, after 27 years, is once again locally owned. As reported last week, this newspaper is now part of the Sonoma Media Investments group.

In the spirit of transparency and in hope of encouraging greater 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, express the views of the editorial board and to provide a forum for readers to present their opinions. Our objective is to provide a variety of community perspectives.

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

With the change of ownership, the membership of the editorial board is changing and will likely be expanding. Currently, the board consists of Sonoma Media Investments CEO Steve Falk, Press Democrat Publisher Bruce Kyse, Editorial Director Paul Gullixson and Editorial Writer Jim Sweeney. They discuss potential editorials, research issues and come to agreement on what positions to take on key 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 every 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 a certain area that is the subject of their opinion piece.

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

Letters should be no more than 200 words long and 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 — and they are more likely to be published — because they don't need to be retyped.

<b>Are all letters published?</b>

No. We receive two or three times more letters than we have space to print, especially during campaign season. We look for letters on local subjects, but don't limit letters to local issues. We also look for letters that express new viewpoints. Readers may have a letter published once every 90 days.

<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>What is a Close to Home column?</b>

Close to Home is our label for locally written opinion columns that appear regularly on our op-ed page.

<b>How do Close to Home columns differ from letters to the editor?</b>

Like letters, Close to Home columns express opinions, but they provide greater detail and context. Some require gathering facts and data — in effect, reporting. They're often written by people involved in an issue or with experience that provides expertise or perspective. As with letters, Close to Home columns are limited to two signatures.

<b>Are all Close to Home columns published?</b>

No. As with letters, we receive too many to publish them all in the newspaper.

<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 commentary by Paul Gullixson and Jim Sweeney which is available on 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. 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 Amy Goodman, Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne Jr. We also publish commentaries from academics, experts and journalists.

<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 Jeff Danziger.

<b>Why do you run offensive cartoons?</b>

Our goal is not to offend but editorial cartoons are supposed to take a strong stand, often involving parody or exaggeration. Sometimes readers object, but that's also true about columns and editorials.

<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 Editorial Writer Jim Sweeney at 521-5201 or email him at jim.sweeney@pressdemocrat.com. Close to Home columns and letters should be sent to letters@pressdemocrat.com.

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