Thursday, January 8, 2009

Welcome to Ask the Editors

The folks at The Herald will occasionally, if not inevitably, do something that a lot of readers can't figure out. The natural response by some readers is to complain to friends, place angry telephone calls to the appropriate editor, write letters to the editor, bang out an outraged comment on our Web site or cancel subscriptions.

As with newspapers everywhere, we are accused of every sort of wacky conspiracy. It is assumed we kowtow to advertisers. Advertisers complain that we aren't nice enough to them. Liberals assume every story we do promotes establishment conservatives. Conservatives assume every story we do promotes the radical left. We ignore the righteous. We play up the negative.

For the most part, the editors suck it up, chalking it all up to having the misfortune of being the messenger. For decades, we have allowed both the legitimate concerns and the utter nonsense to pass without comment, which is a disservice to our readers — and to ourselves. Rarely have readers been given an explanation for the things we sometimes do that might seem odd.

Most recently, for instance, we were ripped a new one by the anonymous haters who lurk in the comments section of our Web site, charging that we are part of some silly conspiracy, because a small item in a Prof. Toro column did not include the name of the ice cream shop owner in Pacific Grove who told a soldier that he wasn't welcome in his shop.

In that case, we thought we had good reason not to include the name of the shop or the owner and we would have loved to explain our rationale.

We are aware that our explanations will never mollify the temple-throbbers who habitate the cowardly confines of anonymous Web comment boards.

However, our explanations might provide a better understanding to the greater sphere of rational readers about how newspaper professionals grapple with our rights and responsibilities.

We might not always be right, but our loyal, rational and engaged readers at least deserve to know what we were thinking.

Which is why we are unveiling our Ask the Editors blog.

In this blog, we will discuss the challenges we face in The Herald's newsroom. We will answer readers' questions. We will address some of the nonsense that goes on in our comment board. And we will likely go off on the occasional weird tangent.

Executive Editor Joe Livernois will host the blog. But other editors at The Herald will also participate, answer questions and go off on their own occasional weird tangent.

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