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New column answers readers' questions

Original post made by Gina Channell-Allen on Jul 1, 2007

Newsflash! We are living in an ever-changing, evolving media climate. How we get our news, when we get our news and who provides our news has morphed into something completely different from what we knew five years ago.

"News consumers," which used to be called readers, and "news gatherers," which used to be called staffers, are finding this new information era somewhat confusing, sometimes frustrating and always challenging. These challenges, coupled with a few issues raised recently, led to the creation of this column; its purpose is to answer questions Pleasanton residents have about their newspaper and how it operates.

Have you ever wondered why the editors choose to cover one event but not another? Or why you never saw a report on the incident down the street, the one with all the police cars and people in handcuffs?

Last week, the Pleasanton Weekly's policy on identifying writers of Letters to the Editor was challenged during a City Council meeting. Anne Fox, chairwoman of the Pleasanton Planning Commission, submitted a letter to the editor and our editorial staff included her title when it was published. This is a standard policy. We would do the same if the superintendent of schools, chamber president or mayor wrote a letter to the editor. Individuals, especially those in public positions, cannot expect detachment from their titles by simply omitting it.

As journalists, we are committed to seeking the truth and reporting it as fully as possible. Just as we are obligated to correct an error or omission on our part, we are obligated to withhold, correct or note errors or omissions on the part of letter writers if we are aware of them. We would not publish something we knew was not factual. Omitting the fact that the writer of that particular letter to the editor was in fact the chairperson of the planning commission would have been a known error of omission.

I welcome your comments and questions about the Pleasanton Weekly, its Web site, the coverage and how the newspaper operates, and will tackle these and other issues weekly.

Gina Channell-Allen, a 20-year journalism veteran, is the president of the East Bay division of Embarcadero Publishing Company, president of the Pleasanton Weekly and publisher of the Danville Weekly. Send questions to gallen@pleasantonweekly.com.

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