You may have noticed a few new faces in the Missourian’s opinion section over the last couple of weeks.
David Webber, an assistant professor in political science at MU, will be filing the weekly legislative column he writes for The Missouri Record with the Missourian as well. Webber, who has been with the political science department since 1986, offers an intriguing idea to funding statewide election campaigns in this week’s column. His idea for voter vouchers would give citizens more incentive and, he argues, more power in statewide elections.
Another new face joining the opinion ranks is Andrew Van Dam, a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism who brings a certain geeky perspective to these community conversations. His column this past week was an analysis of the number of comments left at ColumbiaMissourian.com in 2009. Besides reporting the obvious findings, such as who has commented the most, he also found that the volume of a year’s worth of comments was more than four times the length of “Moby Dick.”
One irony you may have noticed in Van Dam’s column: One of the top commenters was posting under the pseudonym Ayn Rand, which violates the Missourian’s policy of posting under a real name (note to Ayn: Drop me an e-mail and I’d be happy to reinstate your posts under your real name).
I’ve swapped e-mails with a few readers who are surprised by this policy, especially considering that a vast number of news Web sites tend to offer anonymous comments. Anonymity is a nice cloak for those who fear they’ll be attacked for sharing their views, but it’s also an all-too-convenient screen for those who only want to abuse and inflame.
In the end, it comes down to this: The Missourian does not publish anonymous letters to the editor; reporters are allowed to use anonymous sources only as an absolute last resort, and only with the approval of one of the top two editors. That said, shouldn’t the comment policy reflect the same commitment to transparency?
We’re only about eight weeks away from the April 6 municipal election. Virginia Bzdek, a resident of the Fourth Ward, sent in the first endorsement letter this week when she urged voters to support Sid Sullivan for mayor.
Also on the *ballot are seats for City Council representatives in the Third and Fourth Ward and three seats on the Columbia School Board. Voters will also decide on changes to the city charter, whether to approve a $120 million bond for Columbia Public Schools and whether or not surveillance cameras downtown are a good idea.
Submitting an endorsement letter shouldn’t be a cumbersome process. Here’s what you need to know to get published in the Missourian:
- Please include a daytime phone number. It won’t be published, but it will be used to verify your letter and give you an idea about when it will be published.
- There is no charge for letters or columns.
- You can submit your letters by e-mail to letters@ColumbiaMissourian.com; by traditional mail to Letter to Editor, P.O. Box 917, Columbia, MO 65205; fax them to 573-882-5702; or drop them off at 221 S. Eighth St. in the newsroom (come up to the second floor).
- Your address won’t be published, but a general description of where you live will be included. This is to lend transparency to the endorsements – a Third Ward resident has every right to express an opinion on the Fourth Ward race, even if that resident doesn’t have a vote, but Fourth Ward residents should know where those endorsements are coming from, too.
- Anonymous letters will not be published.
Endorsements must be received by April 1. The last day to publish endorsements online is April 5, the day before the election. The last day to publish endorsements in print is April 4.
The most important aspect of the opinion page is your feedback, whether it be to voice your own idea or to offer a response to something you’ve read. We welcome your comments at ColumbiaMissourian.com, Twitter and Facebook, or write a letter to the editor or a guest column. We’re always in the market to publish your thoughts.
If you’re interested in writing a guest column or a regular column for the Missourian, please drop me an e-mail – I’d love to speak with you.