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Tell me what you wanna know about The News

One of the things I hope to do with this column is provide a forum for readers to ask questions about how The News operates and why we do the things the way we do.

I have always said we can’t expect folks to be transparent with us if we aren’t transparent with them. This is your newspaper, and you should know how it works.

So send me your questions at jhinkley@thealpenanews.com, 130 Park Place, Alpena, Mich., 49707, or by calling 989-356-1793.

In the meantime, I figured I might as well answer a few of the more common questions I’m asked:

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letters to the editor are newspapers’ way of creating a public forum for its readership to discuss the news of the day in a civil manner.

To maintain that civil manner, we institute a few guidelines. Letters can be no more than 300 words. We only print letters from our coverage area (Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency and Alcona counties). Letters can’t be used to launch personal attacks against nonpublic figures or local businesses, and they cannot contain any racist, homophobic, sexist or xenophobic remarks or obscenities. No anonymous letters are accepted.

I do not solicit letters from any particular author or on any particular subject. Nor do I reject letters with which I personally disagree. If a letter fits within our guidelines, I print it.

EDITORIALS

The opinions expressed in the editorials, under the “Viewpoint” header, are meant to be the official opinion of the newspaper as an organization, not any one individual.

If you see an editorial signed The Alpena News, it was written by me or Publisher Bill Speer and you can consider it an opinion he and I share.

If it signed Ogden Newspapers, consider it the official editorial stance of the Wheeling, W. Va.-based company that owns The News. If it is signed by another newspaper, it is that organization’s official editorial stance.

Editorials do not reflect the opinion of any of our reporters, and reporters are ordered that the editorial stance of the newspaper is not to influence what they cover or how they write.

EDITORIAL CARTOONS,

COLUMNISTS

We have a rotation of local columnists who work directly with me: Doug Pugh, Jackie Krawczak, Ashley Simpson, Anne Gentry, and Greg Awtry. We also carry a few Michigan-based columnists whose work appears in multiple papers but with whom I directly communicate: Tim Skubick, Andrew Heller, and the Michigan League for Public Policy.

All other columns and the editorial cartoons on the commentary page are bought from syndication services by Ogden Newspapers. Ogden makes available a pool of those items from which I can choose for each day’s paper.

We try to provide a mix of conservative and liberal columnists on each day’s page and alternate each day between conservative and liberal cartoons. Sometimes, that can be a challenge. If a columnist or cartoonist takes a vacation, it limits the pool from which I can choose.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Any stories not penned by an Alpena News reporter or submitted by readers are usually written by the Associated Press, a respected organization whose work is carried by newspapers and TV and radio stations around the world every day.

That is content that we pay for. The AP has its own fleet of reporters who cover events and write stories. The AP also picks up copy from other AP members (including The News) and makes those stories available on the AP wire for other outlets to publish.

Stories bylined by the AP (or marked AP in parantheses) are written, edited and headlined by AP reporters and editors and come to us in finished form for publication.

We wouldn’t be able to bring you news from around the world without them.

WHY WASN’T THAT IN THE PAPER?

People occasionally wonder why some event wasn’t covered.

First, we only have so many resources. As much as we’d like to, we can’t make it to everything.

Second, we can only write about what we know about. If breaking news comes over the scanner while all of my reporters are out on other assignments, there’ll be no one to hear the emergency call. If we don’t get a press release or a phone call about an event, we may not know about it and so won’t be able to write about it.

Also, please remember that we do get a lot of press releases and we cover a lot of other news items. Our calendars fill up quickly.

If you want us to cover an event, it’s best to send a press release about two weeks before the event to give us time to work it into our schedules. If it comes too late, we’re likely to already be busy.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.