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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.