Keeping news, opinion apart

How do you know when you read the Gazette what is news or factual information and what is opinion? And how do we keep it separate?

That’s a question that comes up once in a while, and at the Gazette we have an easy answer. Opinion is confined to Page 4, the page you are reading now, which is labeled “Commentary.”
On the far left side is a space labeled, “Our Opinion.” It is called that because that is what it is. It’s the opinion of the newspaper as a community institution.
Here at the Gazette, I write all of the pieces appearing under the “Our Opinion” label. At some newspapers, especially larger ones, several editorial writers (not reporters) may be assigned to the job.
Because of that, traditionally the newspaper’s opinion is unsigned, although it represents the opinion of the publisher or the owner.
What about the opinion of others, including you? We want to publish the opinion of others, even if it is the opposite of ours. We do so under the heading “Letters to the Editor.” We encourage readers to write letters and we publish them in the center of the page under the editorial cartoons.
When the “Letters to the Editor” column does not appear (such as today), it means we have not received letters.
The Gazette publishes virtually all of the ones we get from our readers and from others in the region. We wish we got more of them.
We don’t publish letters attacking private businesses, private individuals, or our competitors in the news media. We don’t think it is the right thing to do and such attacks are potentially libelous.
The Gazette doesn’t publish mass-produced form letters. With today’s technology, newspapers can be flooded with form letters arriving from New Hampshire or California or anyplace else in the world.
So those are the rules for Page 4. What about the rest of the paper? The Gazette believes strongly that the news should be presented in an unbiased fashion and that the writer’s personal views should not be evident in the reporting or writing.
We try to edit our local stories carefully to avoid that. We don’t think a news writer, whether a professional journalist or a community news correspondent, should intermix in the news his or her personal opinions about the issues or people being written about.
The Gazette does not allow our professional news staff members or community and school news correspondents to promote particular politicians over others, to take stances for or against causes, or to promote particular churches or religious denominations over others in our news columns.
We know you expect us to be fair and unbiased in writing the news about the community. We try to set high standards and to maintain them.
Maintaining the separation between news and personal opinion is the essence of the credibility and image of a newspaper.
We think the standards we have set at the Gazette have been a factor in the significantly rising readership of the newspaper. We appreciate the support you have given us.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at