Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

A healthy community expresses itself

Write to the Point


Last updated 1/9/2020 at 11:34am

It’s the New Year, and with that come the traditional New Year’s resolutions.

I’m not a proponent of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve tried them in the past a couple times and they never last more than a few weeks.

And as my wife says, if something is so important that you feel the need to change it, why wait until the beginning of the year? Just get busy and do it now.

But it is the New Year and a chance for a new start here at the Cheney Free Press. To help that along, I am asking your help in setting a resolution to make a change with part of the newspaper.

The change I am thinking of is more like a fulfillment. It’s the fulfillment of a section’s title.

That section title is “Opinion.” Opinion pages are just that, places where opinions and viewpoints are presented, discussed, countered or supported. In the Cheney Free Press Opinion pages, it has mostly been those of us at the Free Press who have done the opining and that’s what I’d like to change.

I’d like to see more Cheney, Medical Lake, Airway Heights and West Plains opinions expressed, rather than just those of us or guest columnists who send in submittals each week hoping we’ll run them. We have done that in the hope their opinions will create written responses from readers, but it hasn’t seemed to work.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, what I would like to see changed is our Opinion pages filled with more letters to the editor. And not by thank you letters, which are nice but aren’t opinion.

Thank you to the community for support from individuals and organizations are certainly appropriate to run in our pages, but why not show support for the local paper by running a thank you ad rather than expressing those sentiments in a section dedicated to opinions on civic topics. We have several ad representatives who can help you out in this area.

I know there are Cheney Free Press readers with opinions on many subjects because I hear from them. Some do take the time to write a letter for publication and to those people I say thank you.

Others don’t, however, choosing instead to call, write an email or letter but asking it be kept confidential. When pushed to have their thoughts published, the main reason heard for not doing so is they are afraid of what their neighbors or friends will say if their opinions are made public.

Believe me, I understand that. All of us who write for a living understand that because we get that feedback, some positive, some negative. Personally, I’ve been called everything from an ignorant liberal to just recently, insensitive.

That will happen, it’s human nature and nothing we do can change that. But if you really believe in something, don’t you want to stand up for it?

Writing a letter to the editor isn’t that hard. We do have some rules, one being letters no longer than 350 words and two, only one letter per writer every four weeks. That way a handful of more productive writers don’t dominate the conversation.

If you’ve always wanted to write a letter, but don’t know how to go about it, here are a few pointers.

First, limit yourself to just one subject. It’s easy to go off on tangents and cover multiple issues because most issues are complex and multi-layered. Save those tangents for the next letter.

Two, if you’re emotional about the issue, write the letter but don’t hit the send button. Put it aside, sleep on it and re-read it. Chances are you will be able to crystalize your emotions into better thoughts that will make for a well-reasoned argument.

Third, set out to provide that well-reasoned argument rather than simply responding to something. Stay away from name calling, insinuations about other authors or individuals motives or beliefs and focus on making your case.

Finally, if you are stumped on how best to proceed, pick up the phone and call the Cheney Free Press editorial department. You can start with me if you like.

After all, we’re the experts — at least our respective journalism diplomas say we’re experts (Mine’s from Eastern Washington University. Go Eagles!) — and we’d be happy to help you out with suggestions on how to express yourself. But we’re not going to write your letter for you. That’s up to you, and you can do it.

A healthy community doesn’t keep things bottled up inside, and more than anything, we at the Cheney Free Press work hard for and believe in a healthy community.

John McCallum can be reached at

Author Bio

John McCallum, Managing Editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Cheney Free Press for over 20 years. He has received 10 Washington Newspaper Publisher Association awards for journalism and photography, including first place awards for Best Investigative, Best News and back-to-back awards in Best Breaking News categories. He has been serving as editor of the Spokane Valley News Herald since March 2020.

Phone: 509-235-6184
Contact John McCallum


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