A new home for political commentary

I'd like to get you to point your mouse at our newest online political site.

We're calling it Talking Points, a clearinghouse for guest opinions and commentary from Idaho political leaders and candidates.

I hope this grows into a useful resource for voters: one stop that helps you compare what the candidates and politicos are talking about. Frankly, it also gives us an online home for the many political guest opinions we receive — far more than we can possibly publish as Reader's Views. And it should give us a little more room to accommodate Reader's Views on topics other than politics. So I think this is a winner all around.

The site is still in its infancy, kind of like the 2008 election itself. But I hope you'll style="text-decoration:underline;">click here to get an early look at the site and bookmark the address. We're just getting this rolling, so I'm eager to get your comments and suggestions.

Good Idea

I look at the Letters to the Editors as a special place where readers can compliment and criticize the publisher and the editors. It's a special privilege we have closely related to the concept of Free Press and Freedom of Expression.

Letters to Editors doesn't need to be muddied up by notes and letters from the candidates' friends and enemies trying to put in a free plug. That really rakes my nerves to see all those under the Letters to the Editors section.

Now that the 07 cycle is done (almost) please consider, for 08, having only TRUE Letters to the Editors and a separate section for Readers Endorsements (I'll always skip that part).

Talking Points

Kevin, I hope this turns out to be more than a place to post the press releases from the Congressional offices. They have tax supported websites to do that.
But it would be good to have civilized discussion on the issues facing our state and communities, giving legislators and other officials an opportunity to hear what people are thinking and to allow space for them to respond in more than sound bites.
Hope it works out.
John Rusche
Idaho House, Dist-7, Nez Perce County

I Agree... Good Idea (and a comment)

I, too, think this is a good idea, and endorse udapimp's comments.

I would like to say, though, that your Reader's Views columns have become a general waste of space. Rather than local opinions on local issues that will stimulate discussion, they've become bland PR pieces for every institutionalized cause out there. Most of the writers get paid to promote their "opinions" -- and I'd be willing to wager that a lot of the pieces are composed by staffers, not the people whose names are on them.

Monday was the ISU Alumni president telling us what a great idea ISU's plans for a med school are. Yesterday was a BSU professor telling us how vital her discipline and services are, and call her. Today is a development director telling us how critical her organizations's mission is, and, oh, yeah, her employer needs our money. One fairly recent column even informed us that for a river to be a river, it needs to have water in it...??? What's tomorrow, the Executive Director of the Save the Widget Foundation and an Assistant Professor of Widgetology at BSU, telling us how important the Widget is to the survival of western civilization?

It's not my intent to denigrate these writers, who no doubt make coup with their employers for getting their names and causes in the paper, but... Big Whoop. You could put Op-Ed ink to better use, folks, than using it to let people earn brownie points by pimping (no offense, udapimp) their professional causes.

Several good points, folks

Let me take 'em one by one:

1. Well, we definitely won't deprive letter-writers of a place to praise (or, more often, slam) their paper. It's a two-step process: First, we do something readers like (or don't like); then, we run the letters!

2. To udapimp's point about election letters: You're not the first person to complain. And I'll admit that these letters start to get repetitive. I've never quite figured out a fair way to select which election letters we run and which ones we refuse. It's a matter of finding a way to be fair to folks who take the time to attach their name to a letter. We may have to be more selective in time, but for now, I'd prefer to err on the side of publishing as many election letters as possible.

3. To Rep. Rusche's point: This is absolutely a place for officeholders and candidates alike. I'd love to see this grow into a place where readers hear from the candidates, on a regular basis. I think it'd be great to see a bunch of submissions in the months ahead from Bill Sali, Matt Salisbury, Walt Minnick, Larry Grant and Rand Lewis.

4. To MikeB: You also raise a good point: how do we balance pieces from agencies and advocacy groups against real live honest-to-goodness (and thoughtful) Reader's Views from regular people? I don't have an obvious solution. I hope Talking Points creates some room for a better Reader's View mix. Maybe if Talking Points works as I hope it does, we apply the same thinking to some of these other institutional guest opinions (and, no offense to my friends at the universities' p.r. departments, but they throw a lot of essays into my inbox).

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

#2

It's not that I advocate being selective and narrowing the field. The more the merrier, but put them ALL in a different section all together, separate page, and different title. They do not deserve the reverence of a good Letter to the Editor. Speaking of... please see my follow-up on the college study op-ed.

Kevin,

I heard about this site from Huckleberrie Online. I like the effort, I hope it takes off. Perhaps candidates and officials could do some "live blogging" sometime. I know that Larry LaRocco did that this past year at the Daily Kos (I think) and Larry Grant may have done some as well. Something truly interactive during the upcoming Legislative session would be great.

Welcome aboard ...

Always good to see a referral from Huckleberries. Hope you'll check in regularly.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Ratio of Regular vs. Irregular.,.?

Truly skewed loopy or paradigm shift for Noah Webster fans?

Must be a reason there are fewer psycotic acts vs. screaming folks with a busted caps lock.

Politics has enough toehold...

Go help Mr. Deeds find more music.