Notes to our readers

You've really pissed me off this time. I can see why they are cutting the journalism department. You are not fulfilling your duty to the UA. I am going to take a full-page ad out in the Arizona Daily Star because the Wildcat hates kids. The Wildcat hates the administration.

These are just a few of the comments I heard or read Monday afternoon within a four-hour span. Wow. Just wait, as I am writing this column a man just walked in with 15 copies of a letter claiming that we have discriminated against him. Wow. The Wildcat newsroom is just a nexus of bad vibes today. Part of me wants to hug all the angry people, say,"I love you. You're beautiful," and send them off on their ways with lollipops. The other part of me wants to ditch my reader-friendly attitude and viciously taunt and poke anyone else who comes down to complain.

Most newspapers used to have ombudsmen, guys who act as liaisons between the readers and the newspaper. Their jobs were to clarify policy and respond to reader suggestions and complaints. The Wildcat used to have an ombudsman, but he quit because his title was so ridiculous. Plus he refused to drink Bud and demanded that we buy him Foster's and call him "Mate." So today, I will put on the ombudsman's hat and address issues involving letters to the editor, staff editorial policy, Police Beat and the On Campus section.

1) Our letters to the editor policy is fairly simple. Letters should be no longer than one, single-spaced, typewritten page. You always need to include your name and phone number along with the letter so we can verify whether you really wrote it. No phone number and we won't print it. No name and we don't print it.

As Opinions Editor, part of my job is selecting which letters run and which don't. Unlike years past, we have been making an effort to run as many letters as possible. More than 85 percent of the letters received are printed within two weeks of submission. This is the first year in a long time that we have printed more than 50 percent of the letters. This is also the first year that we've had a regular letters page dedicated solely to your opinions. I believe that letters are the lifeblood of the newspaper because it gives our readership a chance to voice their opinions. But the sad fact is that we can't run all of the letters.

When I am selecting letters, I use four key criteria:

If your letter has a lot of grammatical errors, it probably won't run. I do edit the letters for grammar, but I don't like to edit too much because I don't want to alter the letter's content.

The length of your letter is inversely proportional to the likelihood it will get printed. If you have something to say, don't mince words. Spit it out, cha-cha!

Get your facts straight. The Wildcat will not print any letters which are factually inaccurate. We have a real aversion to lawsuits.

The more topical your letter, the more likely it will be published. Sometimes topics get old like that whole business with the Naked Man. We ran letters about the Naked Man for two weeks until the debate degenerated into name calling and "teeth-gnashing."

Occasionally, letters meet the requirements and we don't have space. If your letter does not run, it is not because I don't like you nor because there is a conspiracy. Then again, maybe I wouldn't be saying this if two CIA agents weren't standing behind me threatening to take me back to the Mother Ship if I don't dispel the conspiracy theory.

2) Since I confessed that I pick out the letters, I'll also admit that I write the majority of the staff editorials. This year the staff editorials have been accused of being unfair to the administration and factually inaccurate. I'll admit that we messed up the other day when we referred to Jon Kyl as the Republican incumbent for the Senate seat. It was a dumb error and we apologized for it. But besides that goof, I cannot recall any other factual errors that have appeared in a staff editorial.

The Opinions Board does not have a hidden agenda against the UA administration. Yes, we've come out strongly against the departmental cuts and the way the administration has been pushing the core curriculum proposal. On the other hand, we still haven't come out for or against a core curriculum, and we actually supported the administrative pay raises as financial necessities (because the cost of finding replacements would be far higher than just giving pay raises).

All of the anti-core curriculum comments have been made in letters to the editor. We didn't encourage students to write, we just allowed them the space to give their opinions. Within the past couple of weeks, we have also printed a long letter by Dean Holly Martin Smith of Social and Behavioral Sciences and a column by Provost Paul Sypherd. Even though we don't agree with their views, we still recognize that they deserve a chance to respond to criticism.

We are not anti-administration, anti-ASUA, anti-Greek or anti-Oooh-Aaah-Man. We take strong stances on issues, but not against groups. I'll admit this, though we are pro-student.

3) If you're arrested and you're afraid you name might appear in Police Beat, please do not call the Wildcat. It does absolutely no good. The names of all arrestees appear in Police Beat regardless whether you offer us money, threaten to sue us or call us mean names. By repeatedly calling the Wildcat newsroom, you are only bringing more attention to yourself. Sorry.

4) The On Campus section is a free service where you can submit the time and place of university or student sponsored events or meetings. The space is limited so keep your messages short. If you write more than a couple of lines, we'll have to edit your message so we have room for all messages. It's a sad fact of life that we only have so much room for the On Campus section.

If you have constructive comments about the Wildcat, I'll always try to make time to talk to you. I can be reached at 621-3551. If I'm not there, leave a message and I'll get back to you. Maybe we'll do lunch, but you're buying.

Jon Burstein is a senior in journalism and political science. He always appreciates feedback, but if it's mean feedback, at least make it funny.

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