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Sunday, August 20, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mindy Cameron

Here's Why We Decided To Drop Carlson's Column

I'LL say this for talk radio hosts - they sure can stir up their listeners.

If you were enjoying a blissful vacation last week or otherwise out of the loop of political-media chatter, perhaps you aren't yet aware that John Carlson's column will no longer be appearing on this page on Tuesdays.

Carlson revealed that fact to his KVI listeners last Wednesday. A day later about 150 people had canceled their subscription to The Seattle Times. (That's a bunch, but keep in mind more than a couple hundred thousand subscribers didn't cancel.)

I fielded many calls and listened to dozens of messages from unhappy people. I returned calls to those who seemed genuinely interested in understanding why we would do such a thing.

If you're reading this, maybe you'd like to have that explanation, too.

I'll get to that, but first a promise: this is not a diminishment of local conservative views on these pages. We are actively seeking a replacement, a good thinker and writer with solid conservative credentials, something fresh to say each week, knowledge of the region and the discipline to meet a weekly deadline.

I often disagreed with Carlson, but that was the whole point of inviting him to write for us in the first place.

That was back in January of 1993. Democrats had taken over just about everything - the White House, most of Washington state's congressional delegation, the state Legislature. An activist liberal had just been elected governor.

The editorial page of the state's leading newspaper was the ideal place for a brash young conservative critic to take on all those Democrats. Carlson did that job very well and with relish.

So why change conservative horses midstream? Certainly the political landscape has changed. Many of those Democrats lost their jobs last year, others suffered deep political wounds. The most interesting political figures in the two Washingtons are no longer Bill Clinton and Mike Lowry. They are Newt Gingrich and Linda Smith.

But another, less-obvious change was the biggest factor leading to our parting of the ways with John Carlson. He became a talk-radio host.

It is standard policy for a metropolitan newspaper to expect exclusive, first-time use of material it purchases. That is true for local as well as syndicated writers and is included in our contracts. When Carlson began writing a weekly column for us, he was not hosting a daily radio program; we were the exclusive outlet for his views in the community. His was a fresh, original voice each Tuesday.

After he joined KVI, that was no longer the case. Hosting a daily news-based radio talk show is a demanding job. After more than 25 years in the news business, I understand all too well the relentlessness of daily journalism. Whether it's air time or newsprint you're filling, there is the constant need for fresh material and up-to-date perspectives.

Our standard for contributors - first-time, exclusive material - would be a tough one for any daily talk-show host. On a number of occasions, material that appeared Tuesday in Carlson's newspaper column was just another version of what he had been talking about on radio the previous day or week. After all, KVI was paying him a lot more to do his thing for several hours a day every day than we were for one column a week.

In the end, we decided to stick to our exclusivity standard and end our arrangement with John Carlson.

One caller who lamented Carlson's departure from these pages noted that he is a fine young man and "quite marketable." I couldn't agree more, on both counts.

But surely John Carlson is not the only conservative in the region who aspires to reach the broad audience The Seattle Times delivers. We expect to find a replacement who can meet our expectations of fresh perspective every week.

Until we find that person, we will add a new national voice to our pages. You may have noticed a column last week by Maggie Gallagher about Norma McCorvey, the woman once known as Jane Roe of the Roe v. Wade case who switched from abortion-rights to the the pro-life side of the issue.

Gallagher brings a lucid conservative perspective to social and political issues. Until we sign up a new local/regional writer, her column will appear Tuesday on this page.

Mindy Cameron's column appears Sunday on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is mcam-new@seatimes.com.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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