We're nearing the end of what surely will be noted as one of the most remarkable stretches in the history of the United States. We had a meltdown in the housing market, which triggered a meltdown in our financial systems, which triggered a meltdown in the national and local economies, which triggered a meltdown in our personal economies -- all in short order.

This once-in-a-century financial tsunami, as Alan Greenspan called it last week in testimony before Congress, has come to a head just weeks before the electorate goes to the polls to pick both local candidates for office and a new president. Whichever party wins will make history as well.

This barrage of extraordinary news makes for fascinating times for journalists and presents opportunities for a news organization to help readers truly understand what is unfolding in the world outside their front doors. It can also be treacherous sledding, as personal angst and partisan fervor are unleashed full blast.

As the stock market was crashing two weeks ago, Sandy McCalvy, my assistant, noted that the calls into the newsroom were as angry as she has ever received. This week, the e-mails and calls regarding our coverage of the political races, from House to Senate to president, have increased in fury and fervor. Readers want to know why we haven't laid all of the responsibility for the financial meltdown at the feet of the Democrats and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They also want to know why we haven't laid all the responsibility for the meltdown at the feet of greedy Wall Street financiers, Alan Greenspan and Republicans. They want to know why we are so tough on Republican Sarah Palin, while at the same time others lash at us for not probing more aggressively into her background as governor of Alaska. And so it goes.

The challenge as an editor is to separate partisanship and emotion from the truth. Sometimes, it's nearly impossible. Personally, I have always been amazed at how black and white the world seems to partisans on both sides; it always seems gray to me. As editors, however, we cannot disregard allegations of bias simply because they come loaded with anger; we need to look closely at all complaints to determine if there is merit. And we do. However, there is also the danger that, in bending over backwards to be fair or placate those who complain, we aren't aggressive enough in pursuing the truth in the financial or political arenas. Attacking the press, simply put, is often a political strategy, and sometimes it works.

And so every afternoon, we scrutinize our decisions to determine whether we are giving readers what they need to know to discern the truth and whether our choices are the most newsworthy, knowing that every story, headline and picture will be parsed the next day. I can hear the complaints even before the phone starts ringing -- but that shouldn't stop us from putting tough stories on the front page.

To help readers dissect these issues themselves, we've taken a number of steps in the last few months. We've dedicated more of the front page and the main news section to stories detailing the big national news and to how it has played out in Minnesota. Starting Tuesday, we'll add space to the main news section to give you more news and information from the campaign trail until after the elections. This space will likely be reallocated from other sections of the paper.

We are scrutinizing every allegation that comes into the newsroom regarding candidates for office, with a high threshold for what will get into the paper in final days of the campaign. When we can discern the truth, we'll run a story. If an individual or a campaign makes an allegation against another candidate, we will require the burden of truth. We have also asked our local columnists to avoid partisan columns in the run-up to Election Day, because it is too close to polling time and we want readers to separate news stories from opinion. (The newsroom is separate from the Editorial Department and has no involvement in endorsements.) On Oct. 30, we'll publish our annual guide for voters in Minnesota. You can also find all that information online via your computer or cell phone.

These efforts will stop neither Democrats nor Republicans from complaining about their treatment in the press, of course. But I hope our readers will understand that we are fully aware of the vital role we play in the political process and that we are striving vigilantly, day in and day out, to separate emotion and partisanship from the truth so that you can better understand what is going on during these extraordinary times.