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Chihak: Columnists on Page 1: Why they’re there

Letter to the editor writer John Purdy asked recently: “What possible reason do you have for putting a columnist on the front page?”

Purdy followed with the statement: “Bias belongs on the editorial page.”

He was referring, of course, to the regular presence of our metro columnists and other columnists on Page 1, a practice we began 10 months ago.

Here’s the key rationale:

It distinguishes us from other media, most especially that other daily newspaper.

Lots of media and information sources are competing for your eyes and ears – print, broadcast and cable TV, the Internet and magazines. Giving you something unique, in the unique voices of our columnists, helps create the distinction we need to attract your attention.

The idea is not new.

Newspapers and other media have traditionally included prominent display of individual opinion. Note the “bias” or opinion injected into many cable television news and information programs, for example.

Newspaper front pages have been vehicles for opinion for centuries. In fact, that was their main purpose in colonial days and around the time of the American Revolution.

The idea of news told objectively – whatever that means – is relatively new in newspapering, started after World War I and refined after World War II.

We’ve simply renewed the tradition to distinguish ourselves in a market crowded with two daily newspapers and many other information choices.

Why, the Arizona Citizen, as this newspaper was called at its founding Oct. 15, 1870, included on its very first front page several “stories.” One called the chief of a rival newspaper a “recreant editor,” another described a political group as “the bogus Democratic Committee of Tucson” and a third referred to another political group as “hot-headed members of the Brady faction.”

So from that tradition and others, we present on Page 1 regular doses of opinion from veteran reporters Anne T. Denogean and C.T. Revere. Into the mix we have added Mark Kimble, Jeff Smith, Corky Simpson, Gabriela Rico and others.

The exception is Billie Stanton, who has asked – based on her own ethic and tradition – that her column not appear on Page 1.

We have honored that.

Meanwhile, the idea of front-page commentary in the Citizen has evolved to include what we call “citizen voices.”

About once a week, we have run on Page 1 a collection of community comments taken from our Web site, where people can opine about stories we have published.

It’s a way of giving voice to the community, similar to the way the Internet has given it to bloggers, Rush Limbaugh has given it to his “dittoheads” and CNN and Fox News have given it to their popular commentators.

It’s what freedom of speech and the press are about in our great democratic cacophony.

Reach Michael A. Chihak at 573-4646 or mchihak@tucsoncitizen.com.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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