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Column: Opinion Page aiming to cover more local stances


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The Republic’s primary content mission for 2014 is to be the leading source of local news and information on matters of importance to our readers.

Among those 25 words, one stands tallest: local.

That mission hasn’t changed in the two weeks since the calendar still said 2013, but we are making some changes in the newspaper this year that emphasize our commitment to become even more local.

The Opinion Page is one of them, where there will be some changes in content and frequency. As of today, we are modifying the publication schedule of the Opinion Page, which will appear five days a week — Wednesday through Sunday.

During these five days a week, I know we can raise the percentage of local content on the Opinion Page to make it even more relevant to our readers. Our emphasis isn’t national or world affairs, although certainly issues of larger scope do impact and interest the people of Bartholomew County.

Editions of the Monday and Tuesday Republic, when we won’t publish an Opinion Page, are typically the smallest papers of the week by page count. This change allows us to add an additional page for news stories — primarily local news, but also state, national and world stories that matter.

But back to the Opinion Page; here is what you can expect beginning this week.

Five locally written editorials per week, mostly on matters that occur in or affect Bartholomew County, but occasionally on topics of statewide interest. One of them, using a format I call Quick Takes, will consist of a roundup of three to five short opinions on people and issues that have been in the news, which will appear each Saturday.

We will have five local anchor columnists, with each having a standing day of the week: Doug Showalter, Wednesday; Harry McCawley, Thursday; Kirk Johannesen, Friday; Paige Harden, Saturday; and me on Sunday. You should be very familiar with the work of Doug and Harry, whose columns have appeared in The Republic for years. Kirk, who now oversees the Opinion Page since Harry’s retirement a week ago, joins the rotation. And Paige, a former features editor at The Republic who has been a monthly community columnist, moves into the weekly rotation.

Our weekly community columnist lineup continues with Tim Vrana, Tom Lane, Dennis McCarty, Barney Quick and John Walter. They will publish on Wednesdays in a rotation.

We will occasionally publish a Spotlight Letter, as we have done in the past, which carries the writer’s photo and looks much like an Opinion Page column.

Especially with a Columbus native running state government in Gov. Mike Pence, there continues to be much interest locally in what’s happening with state policy. What occurs at the Statehouse certainly has an impact on Republic readers. So expect to continue to see familiar columnists who write on statewide matters, including John Krull, Leslie Weidenbener, Cam Savage, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and Craig Ladwig, which typically will publish Thursday through Sunday.

On a less frequent basis, you will see columns from Lee Hamilton, the former longtime congressman from Indiana who writes occasionally, and others.

Perhaps more important that any of the features mentioned above are the daily letters to the editor that I hope will publish each day. Of course, that depends on you. If you write them, we will publish them.

Last year, we published 606 letters to the editor, or an average of 11.7 per week. That was an increase from 546 letters in 2012, when we averaged 10.5 per week.

Keep them coming. Please email your letters to editorial@therepublic.com or mail them to 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201.

Here are some reminders for when you do.

Letters are subject to editing, for length or clarity. We have a 500-word maximum. If spelling or grammar isn’t your strong suit, for example, we will help with that.

We do give preference to letters written by local people or those who write about topics that matter most to local people.

Please address your letter to “the editor.” Don’t send us one addressed to someone else (such as “an open letter to ...”). If your letter is really directed to someone else, send it to them. But even these letters can easily be modified to meet our to-the-editor requirement.

Some discussions don’t fit as a Letter to the Editor:

Personal attacks: You can be critical without getting personal.

Product or business endorsements: Our advertising representatives will be happy to assist you.

Consumer complaints: We will refer you to the Better Business Bureau.

There you have it.

Let me know what you think about the new emphasis on Opinion, or anything else that happens to be on your mind.

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