The internet, Cat Bounce! and the H-T’s election letter policy


I remember when the internet came to my hometown. Our public library was the first to have access, and children and adults alike were in awe. The first time I remember touching a computer was in fifth grade. We played Oregon Trail and Number Munchers on small screens illuminated a protoplasm green.

In high school I had a “word processor” to use for homework. It was a typewriter that held one line of type at a time in its memory so you could check for typos before stamping the ink onto paper. There was still a lot of Wite-Out necessary.

This 1915 Corona typewriter that may have belonged to Ernie Pyle was featured on a PBS show called "History Detectives." My typewriter had a tiny screen and memory, but it still needed a lot of Wite-Out. ( Jeremy Hogan | Herald Times)

This 1915 Corona typewriter that may have belonged to Ernie Pyle was featured on a PBS show called “History Detectives.” My typewriter had a tiny screen and memory, but it still needed a lot of Wite-Out. ( Jeremy Hogan | Herald Times)

My older brother had the internet at his house and I spent a summer with his girlfriend learning about chat rooms. Suddenly, it wasn’t necessary to join a pen-pal exchange to banter with someone in another country.

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During my first year in college, I did most of my research in the library using books and printed resources. We were taught to be wary of information on the internet and instructors limited how many web sources you could use on research projects. Later, in my journalism program, an instructor cautioned us against quoting facts from crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia.

The first webpage to go live explained what the internet is and how it came to be. Soon after, sites questioning the moon landing and pontificating on Roswell started to appear. Many websites were just a collection of rants in dayglo-colored fonts of varying size.

Today, there’s a website called Cat Bounce! where you can watch a striped kitten with a spotted belly bounce around your computer screen for however long that entertains you. To me, this page is a symbol for how much freedom of expression the internet offers.

Throughout the internet’s evolution, people have found it a vehicle that allows them to share their views. Now each of us can voice our opinion on anything, anytime, virtually anywhere.

But newspapers remain a respected forum for debate, one that readers expect to be curated with relevant, reliable information.

A handful of you have reached out to me since we ran our first batch of election-related letters to the editor. Mainly it has been candidates and their representatives, but one or two voters also have taken the time to express some concerns.

Publishing several letters on the same subject at the same time — such as candidate endorsements and criticisms — reduces the workload across the board for our newsroom and design center and consolidates the information for our readers. Our role is not to help candidates with lots of friends get elected — it is to assist people in making decisions that affect their lives.

For everyone passionate about a candidate, there is plenty of time left for you to express your support ahead of the primary election. My intention is to run the letters when they can fill a printed page or when a key date approaches. So, I plan to run whatever letters I have shortly after early voting opens next month and then again before the election in May. If enough letters are received, we will add a day.

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We have not started rejecting numerous letters or guest commentaries since modifying our opinion page policies. We are fortunate to live in a town where most who are inclined to write the newspaper put forth well-reasoned arguments.

It’s been about a year since I started as the news director for the H-T. Not every decision I’ve had to make has been popular, and not every change that has occurred has been my decision. And I have every reason to expect more change — since I entered this field adaptation has been the norm.

I appreciate reader feedback and I am listening. So, thank you for writing and calling me. I mean it. But in this case, you don’t need to worry.

Jill Bond is news director for The Herald-Times. Reach her at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Column explains more about H-T plan for election letters


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