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Report to Readers

Report to Readers: Unfair to candidates? Here are three recent complaints

With just a few days to go before an enormous election, journalists start getting complaints from political candidates and their supporters that they’re not being treated fairly. Here’s a look at three recent complaints that landed here:

1. In a letter planned for in Thursday’s Opinion section, a State House candidate named Dan McCormick argues that a story by Annmarie Timmins that appeared in the Oct. 23 Monitor was unfair to him – and to two other candidates in his race.

Timmins’s story was about all the former Democratic legislators who lost their seats in the 2010 election who are now trying to win them back. On the Monitor website, her story carried this headline: “I recognize you! Nearly 65 Democrats who lost House seats in 2010 are back on ballot.” The story went on to describe an interesting phenomenon: Rerun races across the state in which voters will have a back-to-the-future choice. Timmins also noted that some Democrats who left the House even before the 2010 Republican wave were trying to get back in too. In this region, these former Democratic lawmakers include Beth Arsenault of Laconia, Katherine Rogers of Concord, Leigh Webb of Franklin, Frank Davis and Dianne Schuett of Pembroke, Sally Kelly of Chichester, Mary Beth Walz of Bow, Joy Tilton of Northfield and Gilman Shattuck of Hillsboro.

The list also includes Barbara French of Henniker – and she’s the one who got McCormick’s attention. French was quoted in Timmins’s story, along with a handful of others. She was also the subject of a front-page photograph: knocking on the door of a would-be constituent with a Romney sign in the front window. (Good luck with that!)

McCormick thinks the story provided unfair publicity to French, who is running against him. He’d like a story about himself as well.

Alas, we aren’t in a position to do individual stories about individual House candidates. (There are hundreds of them out there!) Instead, we are looking for broad themes. And in local races, we have provided candidates the opportunity to answer a quick survey, the results of which have been appearing this week and last in the Local & State section.

2. Speaking of State House races, we took a call from the spouse of a local House candidate complaining that letters of support sent to the Monitor on his wife’s behalf hadn’t yet appeared in the newspaper. As you can imagine, we’re drowning in election-related mail these days. We’re editing the letters as quickly as we can. (And when I say “we,” what I mean is “I”!) They’re also appearing in unlikely nooks and crannies in the newspaper. Last Sunday, for instance, a handful of letters appeared on page D4, along with the regular Viewpoints columns. For Thursday, we’re planning nearly two extra pages of letters on Pages B8 and B9. And by the time this particular gripe arrived, we had actually published three letters in support of the guy’s wife.

All that said, we will no doubt receive more election mail than we’ll be able to publish in the newspaper between now and Tuesday. If there’s time, we’ll put some additional letters on the website in this spot. Keep watching.

3. Carol Shea-Porter’s staff sure didn’t like the photograph of her that appeared briefly on the website earlier this week. Shea-Porter is running for her old seat in Congress. She had come to the Monitor last week for an interview with the editorial board, and our photo editor, Alexander Cohn, took a picture, like we do with most such interviews. In the newspaper, the head-and-shoulders shot appeared small – and it looked just fine. But on our new website, it appeared enormous – big enough to magnify every pore, every line of fatigue, every hair out of place.

Running mug shots that big doesn’t do anyone any favors. We need to find a way to fix that setting online! In the meantime, we replaced the picture with one that worked better big.

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Here’s one more complaint – from our own staff – and a potential solution. Until recently, when Monitor reporters used Twitter to report small bits of breaking news, their tweets appeared at the top of the website as part of our live news feed. This tool was particularly useful for readers following political coverage and would have been wonderful on Election Night.

Alas, Twitter is trying to stop third parties (like the Monitor website) from encouraging readers to bypass the Twitter website and therefore is no longer making such feeds available to us. That doesn’t mean our reporters will stop tweeting. It means that if you want to follow them, you’ll need to become followers of their individual feeds. You can find Monitor reporters’ Twitter handles at the bottom of their stories.

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