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Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bert Caldwell: Columnist lineup changes on S-R Opinion pages

The lineup of columnists and cartoonists featured on The Spokesman-Review editorial pages has changed very little for at least three years.

It will change a little more this week.

We are dropping Mona Charen, who the newspaper has published steadily since 2010, and for a few years in the mid-1990s.

Charen has been a sometimes caustic conservative voice on topics like immigration, family and social matters, and, of course, Barack Obama’s fitness to be president. She, along with Charles Krauthammer, have anchored the infrared end of the political opinion we carry.

But in June, Charen became a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy,” according to its website.

Charen will be a good fit for the center. However, any such affiliations are a red flag because they come with an agenda that, no matter how noble, may compromise in fact or in perception the writer’s independence. None of the newspaper’s other columnists has such an allegiance.

Disappointed followers can continue to read Charen’s commentary at the policy center’s website:

We are replacing Charen with Robert J. Samuelson, a longtime Washington Post and Newsweek commentator who applies an economic perspective to the financial and political issues of the day, a perspective that happens to clash frequently with the messages coming from the White House. We have used him occasionally the last year, and reader response has been positive.

The many, many former college students who had to digest “Economics: An Introductory Analysis” by Paul Samuelson – the best-selling economics text of all time – may be relieved to know Robert J. Samuelson is unrelated.

Readers also will notice a new columnist in the place of Kathleen Parker, who is taking extended time off. Parker will be back, but while she is away we will be using another Washington Post columnist, Catherine Rampell.

The turnover among our cartoonists will be less obvious because the transition began in May, when we introduced Jim Morin of the Miami Herald, a 1996 Pulitzer Prize winner. This week, we will discontinue Signe Wilkinson, a winner herself in 1992.

During the weeks we carried both, Morin was selected more often for publication than Wilkinson, so the decision to stay with Morin made itself.

Established columnists and cartoonists always have a reader constituency that may be disappointed by the changes. To those readers: Please give the newcomers, in particular Samuelson, time to grow on you.

Turning to a different topic, just a reminder on letters to the editor.

Although we publish letters endorsing political candidates, we are mindful of the fact campaigns frequently orchestrate the submission of such letters. We try to publish a balanced selection, using those that might show a different side of the candidate. We do not publish “attack” letters with unverifiable information, including personal accounts of personal meetings with candidates best characterized as “he said/she said.”

As always, be mindful of length limits – 200 words – and the requirement the letters have street addresses and telephone numbers. This is particularly important for “snail mail” submissions, which frequently lack a phone number.

There is a convenient form for letters at the bottom of The Spokesman-Review website,, that can be accessed by clicking on “Letters to the editor.” Click on “submit a letter,” and away you go.

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