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We learn from our readers continually.

Our dialogue is lively and passionate, as you might expect when sports are involved, and it's a valuable part of our news-gathering processes.

Frequently we learn about our own shortcomings, regrettable mistakes of careless misspellings or erroneous schedule information.

And we learn important lessons on broader matters about our coverage. In one such case, we learned from a teacher.

Dave Geoffrion is an educator, for the past several years, at Cardinal Newman after two decades in Marin County schools.

He and his colleagues are the people we entrust with helping us grow our children into respectable members of society.

Educators take this role very seriously. So when Dave takes the time to write the letter that is printed below, well, we listen.

And we have responded.

Beginning with Friday's sports section, the weekly previews we publish about the top high school football games no longer included a predicted final score.

The reason is that we found ourselves in complete agreement with the points raised in Mr. Geoffrion's letter and frankly were a bit chagrined that it took a nudge from a reader to understand this.

The notion that our predictions might have been fostering a run-up-the-score mentality on one sideline and labeling the group on the other sideline as inferior is not part of our job description. So we have stopped.

Dave Geoffrion stepped forward as a member of the general public to point out what he believed was a flawed decision.

It takes a certain degree of courage to raise a critical voice when it is delivered without the cloak of anonymity provided in so many channels of modern communication, but I hope our response in this matter is encouragement for all readers to feel similarly empowered.

We believe this sports section belongs to its readers and that this stake in ownership gives the public the right, a responsibility even, to tell us when we're wrong.

We don't shirk from accepting that feedback and in fact welcome it.

Our primary goal is to make this daily sports report as informative and entertaining as it can be, and readers can play a vital role in our achieving that end by telling us what they think.

The Press Democrat sports department values its relationship with the high schools we cover.

They are, in a large sense, our partners not only in bringing scores to our daily sports report, but also in identifying the remarkable stories we get to tell about these young people.

We count on coaches to remember to make that phone call to provide us with the details of their games.

We count on athletic directors to keep us up to date on schedules and personnel changes.

We can't do our job without their help, and there is no way we can repay this debt with anything more than gratitude and staunch support of their work.

Read all of the PD's fire stories here

Getting challenged by a letter-writer, an educator, that we may in fact be hindering their work warrants considerable self-examination on our part and, in this case, a change in philosophy.

JAMES BARGER

Executive sports editor

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