Scott Stanford: Knowing our left from our right

— A reader once told me the Steamboat Pilot & Today is the most liberal newspaper he ever read because we print columns by Maureen Dowd. Another reader once told me we are the most conservative newspaper in the country because we put Mallard Fillmore on our editorial page.

I don't know whether that means we appeal to both sides of the political spectrum or irritate everybody.

I don't think it's possible for a reader to typecast the Pilot & Today as liberal or conservative based on our ViewPoints pages. We work hard to provide differing views every day.

We get our national columnists from two sources -- Tribune Media Services and The New York Times News Service.

Left-leaning columnists include Nicholas Kristof, Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd. Right-leaning columnists include Cal Thomas, Jonah Goldberg, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker and our newest addition, Paul Greenberg.

Greenberg is a Pulitzer Prize winner and the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He replaces Carl Hiaasen, whose columns, frankly, focused too much on Florida issues. With the loss of William Safire to retirement, we needed another conservative voice on the editorial pages anyway.

You can read Greenberg's first column for us on Saturday. Appropriately, he tackles media ethics.

We receive other columns from The New York Times, Hearst and Cox newspapers, all of which are distributed by The New York Times News Service. This provides us with columnists who write regularly for newspapers such as The Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Arizona Republic and San Antonio Express-News. We use these columns to supplement our regular commentators.

But after we establish our lineup of columnists, we generally stick to it. Dowd runs every Sunday. Friedman runs Mondays, and Goldberg runs Thursdays.

I get the most complaints about The New York Times' Dowd, whose attacks on the Bush administration could best be described as persistently merciless. But I get more complaints when Dowd doesn't appear, such as summer 2004, when she took an extended break to write a book.

Mallard Fillmore, our liberal-roasting cartoon drawn and written by Bruce Tinsley, garners the second-most complaints. Readers argue we should run Doonesbury on the ViewPoints pages for balance. Defenders of the duck have no reason to worry -- we have no plans to change what we do.

Of the many columnists whose work we don't print, I get the most requests for us to pick up Ann Coulter, the popular conservative writer and talk-show host. I think it's a good idea. Because they will never be on the same page philosophically, I'd love to put Dowd and Coulter on the same page, literally.

Wednesdays and Sundays also include local editorials and letters to the editor. If there is enough demand, we'll run more letters.

The ViewPoints pages should be a place where readers find several different perspectives, ones they agree with and ones they don't. I hope they make you nod your head in agreement. I hope they make you laugh. And yes, I hope they sometimes make you angry.

I'm always interested in reader feedback about the ViewPoints pages. If you have thoughts about the columnists, I'd love to hear them -- call or e-mail me.

From the Editor appears Thursdays in the Steamboat Today. Send questions to Scott Stanford at sstanford@steamboatpilot.com or call him at 871-4221.

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