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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to get involved in the election debate

The election season is in full swing with the primary coming up in just over a month on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

I suspect the turnout will be high, considering the number of local and national races that voters will be keeping track of.

Wisconsin's presidential primary may actually have some bearing on party nominees this year.

With Mitt Romney's win in Michigan Tuesday, the Republicans have three candidates (along with John McCain and Mike Huckabee) who have secured primary wins. It may take until the convention to settle that race.

The Democrats have both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton with wins, and considering how things have gone, it's probably too early to count John Edwards out.

Locally, all county board seats will be contested for the first time in my memory. One of the motivations for reducing the number of seats on the board from 25 to 11 was to increase competition.

Consider the move a success on that score.

Before it's too late, here are some ground rules to help readers participate in the dialogue.

We won't print letters to the editor in the edition before the election. However, we'll allow letters on the Walworth County Politics blog on our Web site at any time.

Also, letters will be limited to 300 words to allow room to get all of them in.

We plan to focus on the Walworth County Board for our election coverage and plan several packages prior to both the primary and general elections.

A listing of candidates in other races can be found online at theweekextra.com

We've also received a variety of candidacy announcements in the last few weeks.

We've posted the complete announcements online at theweekextra.com, but to whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from each of the announcements:

"I am concerned that if the present trend in government spending continues, that may of the taxpayers will not be able to afford to live here. By electing the right kind of people, we can curb government's big appetite."~Supervisor Ann Lohrmann, running for Walworth County Board District 3.

"Norem has concerns about the direction of Walworth County regarding taxes, property owners' rights, as well as the transparency and accountability of our county board. Well planned economic development will be crucial for solving our increasing tax burden."~William Norem, running for Walworth County Board District 2.

"For the past six years, I have worked very hard to try and control spending, but unfortunately, I was in the minority."~Joseph Guido, running for Walworth County Board District 8.

"I believe in open and accessible government. My philosophy is we should make every effort to anticipate problems before a crisis occurs and to encourage early involvement by the public."~Supervisor Dan Kilkenny, running for Walworth County Board District 8.

"Easing the anxiety caused by the high cost of health care, promoting job growth, maintaining great schools and making higher education accessible and affordable are all priorities for me."~Debi Towns, running for state assembly in the 43rd District.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Why we like a photo to the editor

Letters to the editor have been a mainstay of newspapers since the very beginning. The digital revolution has made letter writing as easy as sending an e-mail. The digital revolution has another offspring, the photo to the editor.

For years, newspapers have regularly published photographs submitted by businesses, schools and organizations. We do as well.

Recently we've seen a rise in the number of photographs like these taken by citizens out and about in their communities.

This week, for example, is the bowing snowman. The series is on page 3A of Sunday's paper.

Dan Roeda/Contributor
Jordan Joeda's snowman that bowed in the back yard of his family’s Delavan home.


In recent weeks we've also published photographs from our readers of the frozen benches near the boat launch in Lake Geneva, as well as photos from two different readers of the pier on Delavan Lake that became embedded in ice and floated off into the middle of the lake.

Sue Laesch, who took one of those photos, says the pier came from a "newbie" across the lake who apparently didn't know they should be removed for the winter.

She cautions snowmobilers to be careful if the ice thickens up again and the pier hasn't sunk to the bottom.

The trend in the newspaper business is called citizen journalism.

Typically, daily newspapers have promoted citizen journalism as a way to leverage the interactivity of their Web sites.

The newspapers say it's a way to stay more fully connected with their readers.

The cynics say it's because content from citizen journalists costs nothing to produce and is easy to publish online. It also escapes the same journalistic scrutiny for accuracy that staff reports do.

In either case, there is a good way and bad way to use it.

We've always given reader contributions a priority at The Week, and bucking conventional methods, most of it is published in our print edition, not solely online.

There are occasions where the unlimited space on Web sites is a benefit. For example, we published two extensive photo galleries last week.

One was of the devastation caused by the tornado that touched down in Kenosha County this past week.

The other was a Web-only photo essay by staff photographer Terry Mayer of ice fishing on Delavan Lake.

For readers interested in citizen photojournalism projects, make note of the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project.

It is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this year's primaries, caucuses and general election. We've posted a link on our Web site.

I remain confident that citizen journalists won't completely replace those of us who do it full time, but it's easy to see how their contributions make the coverage of communities even richer and more compelling.

If you've taken a photograph that you'd like to share, e-mail it to us at theweek@theweekextra.com

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