Letters to the editor published in writers’ own words - literally
Published Nov. 4, 2021
If you’ve been in this business long, you’re aware —painfully aware — of the many changes our profession has experienced. It was one thing when the pica stick and photo wheel hit the junk drawer. It was another when back-lighted layout tables gave way to pagination software and computers.
Those, in fact, were helpful changes, welcome changes. Computers meant we could streamline our operations and even migrate away from locking 1A color in at 5 p.m. Heck, we could rearrange the front page until about 20 minutes before the press start. Email? Now we could copy and paste information, making us leaner and more timely with getting news out.
But some changes were not and still are not welcome, much brought on by the advent of the internet. Remember when we hoped that was a passing fad? Yeah. It’s not.
Now that Facebook is the beacon of all knowledge any of us needs, newspapers have suffered yet another blow. Print advertising has declined right along with paid home delivery subscriptions. Amazing, isn’t it, that people think we have the audacity to charge for the news we gather and disseminate? Yet, they think nothing of paying high monthly fees for smartphones, the internet, cable and satellite television. And they have the audacity to say they don’t or won’t pay for news. Hah.
But in case you hadn’t noticed, once bustling newsrooms full of people with various functions became shadows of themselves. When the going gets tough, the tough cuts typically strike sharp blows to the newsrooms first. After all, there’s that sense that newsroom personnel are just a drain on the revenue stream. We don’t “sell” anything the way ad reps do, so our value is sometimes diminished. Well, as I like to tell ad execs, the first four letters of the product they sell into are NEWS. And if it weren’t for our news, they’d not have much of a product to sell.
But I digress.
The fact remains that newsrooms have largely been decimated.
“Don’t you all have proofreaders down there?” “Don’t you all have copy editors down there?”
“Yes ma’am, we sure do. Only, those two jobs and a few others are all rolled into one person’s job.”
“Well, do tell. Who’s that idiot?”
“You’re speaking with him now, ma’am. And if there’s nothing else, I need to change the water cooler bottle and empty some trash. Have a great day, and thanks for reading.”
Still, any of us who yet give a damn about clean copy and headlines that are correctly spelled continue to do our best with fewer and fewer resources and time on hand.
What would be easier than just letting copy go unedited, pages sent without benefit of proofing? Wait. Some papers might be doing that, but I’m speaking to the folks who haven’t gotten to that point. Yet. They’re the same people who also believed that readers who are willing to put pen to paper, stamp to envelope and send an opinion to be shared with all other readers deserve the same benefits their reporters had, which is editing for spelling, grammar and clarity. After all, not all these people are English literature grads, school teachers, grammarians and great spellers. They are, however, people willing to share what’s on their minds.
It was a noble cause, one we decided in September that we would sideline. It wasn’t staffing and lack of time that drove the decision, either. No, it was that we had finally tired of people claiming that in editing their letters we were changing the meaning and intent of some writers’ letters. We were hampering their First Amendment rights, some claimed, by changing their letters. Not that illustrious SCPA attorney Jay Bender would advocate editors not do a little cleanup, he has long held to the idea that editing be kept minimal in an effort to avoid legal troubles.
Now, rest assured that we’ve explained to folks that not publishing their letters is not akin to trampling their First Amendment rights. None have taken us up on our suggestion they start their own newspaper, but plenty yet believe that whatever they submit to the newspaper obligates the paper to publish.
We still require writers to adhere to our maximum word count of 250 words. We still refuse to publish letters that likely will get us embroiled in a suit. We still exercise our right not to publish if a letter is not original work, has scant or no relevance to readers in general. And we yet refuse to publish letters that contain vulgar and profane language, save for the occasional “hell” and “damn.”
Some months back we renamed our letters submissions. They now carry the overline “Voice (or voices, when publishing a package of two or more letters on the same day) of the People.” It was only a natural transition, then, that we retain the writer’s voice by publishing acceptable letters exactly as they were written and received.
In some ways, doing so adds a bit of flare to our letters. Readers can almost hear the writers’ voices, even if they do not know the authors.
I’ve attached two examples of such letters. Please, by all means, read them out loud and see if I’m not right that you can just about imagine the person speaking directly to you:
OK my cup runneth over with your praise of newspapers. I applaud ur Nat’l Newspaper Week and agree the IJ and other papers deserve such recognition; HOWEVER, I have issues with three areas. First, the IJ does a good job of local overage—given. Seond your Opinion coverage is not “aimed from the left, from the right, from the middle”.You do throw in an occational “right” opininist in but your are a leftest paper: you, I and your customers know it—check the contenct of LTEs. Finally and the main reasaon for my input is your champion of but lack of investigative journalism. To examplify: WHERE is your coverage of the shutdown of the Keystone pipeline-thousands of jobs lost, reduced oil within the US, start of Canadian oil sale to China. WHERE is ur coverage of Southern border crisis—thousands of illegal (illegal meaning aganist our law in case u and the rest of the social media have forgotten) immigrats crossings daily some carrying drugs, some cartel members, NONE vetted for Covid and some human trafficing. WHERE is the coverage of sensorship like Biden/China with laptop FACTS and partner revelations—polls show 17% of voters would not have voted for Biden should such infomation been available—that’s the elections investigative reporter! WHERE is your coverage of Prez’s Afghan withdraw againist the advice of the military and then worst of all executed by the State Dept—no experice evident by leaving Americans behind after Prez says none to be left behind. But do enjoy ur Newspaper week!
Somebody explain to publisher WHITING DESTROYING their paper.
He so DAM DUMB doesn’t know our 2ND.AMENDMENT guarantee “our right to buy own possess weapons SHALL NOT BE ABRIDGED” .
HE QUOTED A LIE ABOUT AMERICANS ARE”USING LOOPHOLES TO ILLEGALY BUY GUNS.”
WHITING STUCK HIS HEAD IN HIS CRACK AGAIN CRITICISED PEOPLE CLAIMED THEIR CIVIL RIGHTS TO CHOOSE NOT TAKE THE VACCINE THAT HAS KILLED OVER 12,000 AMERICAN’S ACCORDING TO CDC VARES RECORDS.
HE HAS NO AUTHORITY OR LEGAL OR MORAL AUTHORITY TO JUDGE ANYBODY EXCEPT HIS OWNSELF .
“JUDGE NOT LEST YOU BE JUDGED.” HE CONTINUES TRY DICTATE MORALITY TO EVERYONE IN GREENWOOD BUT THE MURDERS SHOOTING BLACKS.
PS: THE MORON HESS MUST BE A MORON IF CANT REMEMBER HE ELECTED A CHINESE COMMUNISTS SYMPATHIZER JOE BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT AND DONALD TRUMP GAVE US WORLD PEACE AND MADE PEACE AGREEMENTS WITH MUSLIM COUNTRIES NOT LIKE BIDEN OBAMA BOMBING MOR COUNTRIES SINCE THE 2ND WORLD WAR. WE HAD NO INFLATION. PLENTY PETROLEUM PLENTY JOBS PLENTY FOOD NOW BIDEN DEMOCRATS GIVE US $5 GAS FOOD SCARE CARS SCARCE PEOPLE DYING FROM VIRUS THE LIAR SAID HE CAN CURE.
WAY GO HESS YOU LIKE SOCIALISM GET OUT THIS COUNTRY.
This is an across-the-board policy change and is not arbitrarily applied based on letters’ content. Left, right, middle of the road or whatever, we now take the WYSIWYG approach to publishing letters. Interesting enough, we’ve had some positive responses among readers. And, we suspect, we’ve grayed the hairs of a few grammarians and teachers. Well, maybe not the middle school social studies teacher who asked us to consider covering something with ties to “the Hollacaust.”