Ask the Editor

Election letters not balanced?

sduerr@thetribunenews.comMay 29, 2013 

Sandra Duerr

Q: In Sunday’s paper you published a Letter to the Editor in support of (San Luis Obispo City Council candidate) Carlyn Christianson — yet no letter in support of (SLO City Council candidate) Paul Brown appeared. I’m confident it was not due to a lack of Brown letters to publish, but rather due to your own endorsement of Christianson.  … I myself had emailed my own Letter to the Editor on Friday afternoon. It was succinct and on point. Odd that it (nor no one else’s letter in support of Brown) could see daylight in your Letters to the Editor. This was hardly a coincidence.

It is one thing to endorse a candidate, which is your right and perhaps even your responsibility, but to be uneven-handed in publishing letters you receive in an effort of favoring the candidate you endorse is beyond your purview. It is bad editorial policy and bad for the community — and I believe this whether we support the same candidate or not. 

— John Grady

A: I’m glad that you raised this issue. We have never deliberately failed to print letters in favor of one candidate because we endorsed another. In this particular case, the ratio of Brown letters we’ve printed compared to the number received is higher than the ratio for Carlyn Christianson.

Here’s the breakdown of letters received so far in this campaign, according to Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane: 28 for Christianson (of which we’ve published about 17); 15 for Brown (of which we’ve published about 14).

Your particular letter didn’t get published over the weekend because it arrived after most of the Opinion pages for the long Memorial Day weekend had already been laid out. Keep in mind, too, that it can take one to two weeks for letters to appear in print, depending on backlog. And while we try to expedite election-related letters, it often takes more than a day or two to turn those around, Finucane said.

Q: I’ve been taking your paper for years. I want to let you know that I’m very dissatisfied with the fact that your paper is not covering the scandals that are rampant in Washington — the Benghazi story, the IRS story, and the spying on reporters story. These are huge stories that are about to bring down the presidency. … You guys are ignoring them for political reasons and that’s wrong. You’re a newspaper. Report the news.

— Anonymous phone message

A: I certainly agree that these are major news stories, but respectfully disagree that we haven’t covered them. On the contrary. We have published news stories on all of these issues throughout the paper — on the front page and inside the A section — as well as commentaries and editorial cartoons on the Opinion page. To be sure, you will find that local news tends to dominate our front page; we’ve taken that approach based on reader interests, given that state, national and international news is easily available 24-7.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our website or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112, or email me at Follow me on Twitter @SandraDuerr.

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