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Posts Tagged ‘Letters’

Is it possible to verify letters?

In Opinion pages on 16 Jun 2016 at 12:54 pm

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“I was ‘had’ this week.”

That is how Argus-Observer Editor Kristi Albertson started an email to me a couple days ago. The subject was the verification of letters to the editor and the problem was that someone went to great lengths to pretend to be someone else for purposes of getting a letter to the editor into the Ontario, Ore., newspaper. Kristi writes:

A letter was emailed to me from a lady with a legitimate physical and email address. No phone number was given, and she wasn’t in the phone book, but I stalked her online and found out she was a real person. So even without the number, I ran the letter.

She came in today: She did not write the letter.

For my money, Kristi did her due diligence. The emailed letter looked legitimate – in fact, it came from the local woman’s real email address but was sent from an advocacy group. She says she has received two other letters that appeared to come with local phone numbers but turned out to be Google Voice numbers that mimic local phone extensions. … Read the rest of this entry »


Letters, we get letters…

In Editorial pages on 2 May 2013 at 4:15 pm

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Say a guy writes a letter to the editor. The guy says President Barack Obama plans to send military aid to the Palestinians as part of a plot to destroy Israel. Would you run that letter?

Maybe that one’s too easy. Say another guy writes in. He wants readers to know that the Boston bombing plot was directed by Jihadists bent on the destruction of America. Is that getting in your newspaper?

Put it this way: Do we have to run every letter to the editor that comes our way?

I got to thinking about this stuff when I read this response to the problem in the Kansas City Star:

Letter writers not responsible for their own fact checking

April 20, 2013 · adastrum.kansascity.com · Two readers contacted me today about a letter in the Opinion section that contained an egregious error: the statement that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan called for the elimination of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s quite far from the truth. In fact, the Ryan proposal doesn’t cut Social Security at all, though it does propose changes. The plan does include Medicare and Medicaid cuts, but so does President Barack Obama’s. A correction is coming tomorrow, and I’ve removed the…

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I guess I mostly agree, but I think the author glosses over the difficulty. You want folks to feel free with opinion based on fact, but it can be a nuanced thing this separating the good ones from the goofy ones. It also takes a deft hand to help letter writers understand your reasoning and to help them get their opinion into a form you can use. … Read the rest of this entry »

Host letter writers

In Editorial pages on 10 Feb 2011 at 1:17 pm

The Daily Press Letter Writers Conference may be the best thing any Wick paper has done in my tenure here. Period.

It’s Montrose Daily Press Publisher Stephen Woody’s bright idea and something he told readers he has wanted to do for some time. As he writes in a brilliant front-page treatment last month, the idea was to get the newspaper’s most active letter writers in a room and hear them out. He wanted to answer their questions, to hear their feedback about the newspaper and also to encourage them and others to write more.

Steve says his newspaper published a record 727 letters to the editor last year. How many of us can say we publish more letters to the editor today than we did, say, 15 years ago? (In fairness, some of us have more robust comment/community blogger opportunities on our Web sites than does the Daily Press. I’m sure that cannibalizes some of what would otherwise be letters. Nonetheless, the Daily Press leads this league in terms of an active, interesting editorial page.)… Read the rest of this entry »

Better local opinion pages

In Opinion pages on 9 Dec 2010 at 3:21 pm

Recently, Williston Herald Managing Editor Jacob Brooks has been helping the folks at the Wahpeton Daily News to reconsider their newswriting, packaging and other aspects of the editorial product. One of the things he noticed was that the paper could benefit from better opinion page pieces. Vibrant opinion pages are the heart of any good newspaper. I am not sure you can have a good community newspaper without local content on your editorial page. Jacob compiled a list of tips for publisher Ken Harty and his team and I asked Jacob if he would mind my reprinting them here. I think he has something in here we could all use. — Clay


I think we all use those syndicated columnists, but if I could, I’d do away with them entirely. They are good writers, but all they talk about is Washington politics, so it’s about as non-local as you can get.

I know this is hard, but try to schedule a local column to run every day. Here at the Herald, all the newsroom staff is required to write a column, which gives the Opinion Page local flavor every day.

The community can help, too. At the Bogalusa Daily News, there was a man in his 20s who was community-minded and liked to write letters to the editor. I approached him about writing a weekly column and he was all for it. I think we paid him $10 per column, and while his work needed some heavy editing at first, he got better after time… Read the rest of this entry »

Bigfoot is real

In Opinion pages on 11 Jun 2010 at 8:09 am

A letter to the editor, written to a daily newspaper in the South and purporting to come from “Jesus Christ,” reads:

The Patterson-Gimlin film of Bigfoot that was made in 1967 is real. The test that (North American Science Institue) did on the film stated that the creature had both human and gorilla characteristics. Bigfoot is a human-primate hybrid. A man made creature that was created several thousand years ago by men that went to Africa and had sex with female gorillas. For all you skeptics out there, they were real men that had real sex with real female gorillas. And nobody was wearing a costume at the time.

OK, settle down, class. There is a moral to come, I promise… Read the rest of this entry »

Letters, we get letters

In Uncategorized, Writing on 6 May 2010 at 9:24 pm

I write a fair amount of letters. I mean real letters – not e-mail, Twitter posts, IM exchanges or smoke signals. I’m talking about the kind you seal in an envelope, address and stamp. I just think they are more personal and much more likely to get someone’s attention than a digital transmission of some kind. I try to write thank-you letters when they are deserved and I’m not shy about writing letters of complaint.

I mention this for a couple of reasons. Last week, I talked about the Half Moon Bay Review’s renewed emphasis in finding a pleasurable conclusion to complaints. Then I found this Web site, which is something I wish I would have thought up myself.

Letters are perhaps the most powerful form of written communication, in my view. They are exquisitely personal. They aren’t going to be forwarded to a thousand people with the click of a mouse. They are generally intended as a communiqué between two people. They also represent a considerable time commitment… Read the rest of this entry »

Print my #@^%$&**ing letter!

In Opinion pages on 7 Aug 2009 at 8:00 am


There is a guy in Montana who doesn’t think much of our president. I know this because Sidney Herald Publisher Libby Berndt shared with me a particularly vitriolic letter to the editor.

I suggested she reject it, but I recognize that isn’t such an easy call. When do you reject a letter to the editor? Does it leave you open to complaints of censorship? The answers are: when the letter tramples community standards, and yes.

As I told Libby, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of free speech, but it doesn’t obligate us to publish anything and everything our readers say.

The Sidney Herald’s letter writer called the president a “psychopath,” an “unregenerated heathen,” a “clown” and a “liar.” I realize the president is a public figure. Furthermore, the president is a big boy and not liable to lay awake at night worrying about what one particularly hateful constituent thinks. But I advised Libby not to run the letter… Read the rest of this entry »