OPINION COLUMNS

A forum for all of our readers

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, September 22, 2012

Some of you may have noticed a few changes in our opinion page over the past few weeks.

Bob Buckel

As we continually strive to make the Messenger better, one of the things we’ve been hearing a great deal about is the opinion page: more specifically, the cartoons, the columns and a few prolific letter writers.

The cartoon has been addressed. Without taking the edge off, we’ve gone to a cartoonist who skewers both sides of the aisle with equal glee – but whose work aims more to make you laugh, and think, than to make you angry.

Joe Heller, whose cartoons run in 350 newspapers, has been with the Green Bay Press-Gazette since 1985 and has won a boatload of awards. Despite the fact that he’s a Packers fan, we think that day-in and day-out he’ll be a good fit for Wise County readers.

As for columns, you’re going to see more from the writers on our own staff, as well as columns from young people at Decatur High School (and possibly others throughout the county), the return of “Square Talk” where we pose a question to folks we catch on the street, and “guest columns” from local readers who have something to say.

That “guest column” slot is designed for those who may have expertise or insight in a particular area and need more space than a letter would normally allow. If you think you have a “guest column” in you, email me at bbuckel@wcmessenger.com, and we’ll talk about it.

That leads us to letters.

We want the letters-to-the-editor section to be a forum where people can express their thoughts freely – much like an online forum, but with a few key differences.

First, letters must be signed and the writers willing to have their names printed. We put our names on everything we write, and letter-writers must be willing to do the same.

Second, letters should not attack, insult or threaten anyone. That’s not what the newspaper is for.

Third, we won’t print letters that promote or criticize specific businesses. If you want to boost a business, see the friendly folks in our ad department. If you want to hurt a business, stop shopping there and, if you wish, tell all your friends why.

And fourth, what a letter states as fact must actually be true. We will do our best to check, correct anything that’s misrepresented and leave out or restate as opinion that which cannot be verified.

All letters – emphasis on all – are subject to editing for length, grammar, spelling and focus. If we change it drastically, we’ll run it back past you if time permits.

We’ve also changed the letters policy to add a paragraph which reads, in part, “No more than two letters a month from any individual will be published.” That’s designed to keep anyone from monopolizing the space and encourage more participation from a broader cross-section of readers.

The opinion page truly is your forum, and we hope more of you will think of it that way.

We’re pretty sure that’s going to make for some interesting reading.

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