Starting next week, the Journal will be adjusting its letters to the editor policy, to uphold the journalistic integrity of our newspaper, the freedom of speech of our readers and the delicate balancing act between the two.
Let’s think about why letters to the editor are so important to a newspaper’s mission. As your communitypaper, we work hard to be the voice of our area, on both a macro and micro level. Part of that creed is giving residents a chance to voice your own perspectives, provided what you have to say falls under a few simple guidelines.
The purpose of a letter to the editor is to illuminate issues that are important to the general readership, express opinions about something that has appeared in our pages or is going on in the community or to publicly thank contributors to a cause or event. Historically, letters have been used to raise awareness and enact change. Think of Cato’s Letters and “Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” which both helped redirect the course of American history.
The newspaper was never intended as a platform for one-on-one debates. Those disagreements are better settled the old-fashioned way (although I’d like to add that the Journal does not officially condone sword fights, except with cardboard weapons).
For that reason, the Journal will no longer be accepting letters that are directed at another individual; about another individual or establishment, except thank yous and political endorsements, or about issues that do not carry some involvement with the readership, as a whole. We respect and encourage back-fence discourse, just not in our pages.
In addition, the Journal has always reserved the right to edit letters for spelling and grammar, although we’ve stopped short of changing words, to give the reader the chance to express him or herself in the manner that person intended. That said, we are all human and humans make mistakes. Should we leave a typo you may have made, just because “of” and “if” are awfully close together on the keyboard? We don’t think so.
So, in the spirit of creating a letters to the editor section that both voices the opinions of you, our readers, and allows the non-letter-writers to enjoy a section that pertains to them and their interests, this new policy will take effect, starting next issue.
As always, personal attacks or endorsements, libel, slander and just plain meanness are not allowed and letters must be shorter than 500 words. Our deadline remains 5 p.m. on the tuesday before publication, and letters are welcomed and encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax to 592-4663, mailed or dropped off at 41 East Main St., Springville, N.Y. 14141.
All submissions must be typed and signed with the writer’s full name, address and phone number, should we have any clarifying questions about the content or format of your submission.
I look forward to continuing to read your thoughts, opinions and submissions, and also welcome feedback about this policy or any of the Journal’s operations. I can be reached at email@example.com
or followed on Twitter @springvilleny
. Happy writing and most of all, happy reading!