Garth Stapley

The Modesto Bee wants to amplify your voice. This is one way

Opinions editor Garth Stapley is pictured in The Modesto Bee newsroom on Wednesday February 27, 2019.
Opinions editor Garth Stapley is pictured in The Modesto Bee newsroom on Wednesday February 27, 2019. jlee@modbee.com

We like to think of this opinions page as the people’s page.

This is where readers sound off in letters to the editor, and where people respond to letters with more letters — often, in thoughtful reflection and praise, or constructive criticism; sometimes, with anger; once in a while, with biting sarcasm. We envision some writers clipping from the newspaper what they’ve personally written and taping the copy in a memory book, or using a magnet to put it on the fridge.

This opinions page is where several of our die-hard readers with expertise in a certain area, or sometimes just with exceptionally articulate passion, see their voices appear in what we call op-eds. These are special columns that can run more than twice the length of a letter to the editor. The nickname reflects a traditional bygone format of two pages, one bearing editorials and the other page opposite of editorials — op-ed — featuring other commentary and perspective pieces.

Having shepherded The Modesto Bee’s opinions section for eight months, I also hope that people get something out of what I write. This takes two forms: editorials reflecting the formal position of the newspaper, written under the collaborative byline of The Bee’s editorial board; and columns like this, with my name and head shot, which are less formal and reflect my work alone.

The goal of today’s column is to better align what I write with what you want to read.

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Consider this your chance to have a say in what your newspaper does.

What’s important to you? What affects you and your family, your mood, your bank account, your sense of well-being? How might information on this opinions page improve your life?

I’m serious. We want the people’s page to reflect our people. The best way for that to happen is to hear what they’re thinking.

We already have decent ways of guessing. Modern analytics let us know how many people are reading our online content, how long they spend on each story, and whether they’re motivated to subscribe. But these indicators have limitations; for example, they don’t in the least reflect newsprint readers, who are among our most loyal customers.

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Hundreds of readers do engage each year, letting us know what’s on their minds in letters to the editor, as I’ve mentioned. These come in unpredictable ebbs and flows. Although you used to see letters appear on any given day, lately we’ve settled on printing them twice a week: Sunday, our best-read edition, and one other day, usually Wednesday.

This is not a call for more letters. It is a call for your response to this question: What would you like to see The Bee address on this opinions page?

We don’t need your name (like we do for letters) for this feedback. We just need your brainpower.

It’s tempting to throw out there a few suggestions to get you thinking. But I don’t want to poison the well, so to speak. I want your genuine input.

I will say that your suggestions should be local in scope, or at most regional. I almost never write about national politics or international issues unless they directly affect us here in the Central Valley. You will see national and international topics treated by syndicated columnists on this page, and that’s sufficient; I’m paid to treat local and regional subjects. (Feel free to continue writing letters of national and international interest.)

Also, please remember that my mission is writing opinions, not fixing delivery problems or addressing customer service complaints.

The best way to reach me is by email, gstapley@modbee.com. Telephone works, too — 209-578-2390; you may need to leave a message, as I’m not always in the office. Also, feel free to comment at the bottom of this column at modbee.com and on our Facebook page.

In The Bee’s opinions section, we’re looking to amplify your voice. Let it be heard.

This story was originally published October 27, 2019 5:00 AM.

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