IT'S September. The world has left the beach and gotten serious again. Without being portentous, we'd like to borrow a moment of your time to explain how and why the op-ed articles on this and the preceding two pages are selected.
We do so because new readers join our dialogue every day and confusion often reigns about the op-ed columns.
First, a primer. The rest of the paper deals in news, analysis, investigation, features, reviews, special series, and problem-solving journalism. These final pages include opinion columns and essays - as well as the paper's editorial judgments found here.
We welcome reasoned (occasionally fervent) viewpoints from various points of the ideological and subject- matter spectrum. We occasionally print pro-and-con debates. But, on the whole, we try to invite knowledgeable specialists - hoping to shed light, not heat, on subjects. (Too often even the best pro-con debates leave readers baffled, like swivel-headed spectators at a power-serve tennis match.)
Sometimes we err. Partisan writers may bolster their assertions with facts and figures they have not substantiated. When that happens, we - and many of you writing letters - seek to set the record straight.
Having admitted such occasional misjudgments, we perhaps owe you a brief prospectus of what we seek to do more often in the future:
1. We're trying to bring you more writers whose expertise is grounded in long experience. Not ivory-tower theorists, but realists, who tend to be dispassionate and nonideological. In short, those who are open-minded about new ideas, but tough-minded about evidence.
2. We want to give you the best problem-solving ideas - tackling personal, community, national, and international questions.
3. We seek writers whose depth of practical experience allows them to link today's events to historical background and then bring you informed perceptions of what those events mean for the future. That doesn't mean futurology. We've sometimes said there's nothing about futurology the future won't cure. We prefer what a British MP once termed, in awe over a great foreign correspondent's work, ''the intelligent anticipation of events.''
4. We will try to find specialists whose writing is as clear, colorful, and direct as the professor to whose lectures everyone on campus flocked. We will also continue to welcome fresh, well-reasoned articles from unexpected, over-the-transom sources.
Tall order. But that's our goal. We hope you find the results useful.
We're trying to print more writers whose expertise is grounded in long experience.