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The Slice: Hit us with your best shots

One great reason to read the newspaper is so you can complain about it in an informed way.

I’m serious.

Grousing about the daily rag is a time-honored American tradition. It’s fun. But those who engage in this pastime without familiarizing themselves with the newspaper’s contents limit their effectiveness as media critics.

I wouldn’t presume to suggest what you should like or dislike about the S-R. I have my lists. I’m sure you have yours.

But here are a few tips about complaining. I think you’ll find these recommendations helpful whether you contact someone at the paper or simply voice a viewpoint at the breakfast table.

Do: Be specific. Sweeping condemnations might feel good, but they don’t make your point as well.

Don’t: Yell. Raw anger is less persuasive than you might imagine.

Do: Remember that columns and editorials include opinions.

Don’t: Assume that those opinions reflect some grand, coherent agenda designed to make you spit out your cornflakes.

Do: Remember that only a few people at the paper are involved in the editorial page’s political endorsements.

Don’t: Expect John Blanchette to enter a world of make-believe when writing about the Cougars.

Do: Ask questions. I can’t imagine that you would not get an honest answer if you said, “Did you guys consider talking to John Doe when you did that story on XYZ?”

Don’t: Critique something you have not read.

Do: Hold our feet to the fire. With reduced staff size and a physically smaller paper, it’s tempting for us to point to those factors when explaining why we didn’t cover this or that event. Those aren’t hollow excuses. That’s our 2010 reality. But you deserve a hearing. Maybe we were wrong.

Do: Feel free to contact us about anything. Surveys have shown that the thing some readers care about most is the comics lineup.

Don’t: Expect us to see everything through your political lens.

Do: Point out our mistakes.

Don’t: Confuse us with TV. We’re the ones who print letters noting our many grievous shortcomings.

Today’s Slice question: Do you have friends or family who miss snow since they moved somewhere that doesn’t get much?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail Remember greyhound racing here?

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