Election coming: Better talk about the letters

The recent exchange of letters over the senior center reminds me that we have an election coming up and it is time to go over some of the rules of the road.

While I would like to have an intelligent, thoughtful exchange of ideas in the letters column, I am a realist and know things are going to get pretty brutal.

I hate rules, but I have a few for our correspondents that I'm going to enforce. The first is going to be the 500-word limit. Those of you who count words out there (oh, yeah, they're out there) might notice the letters have been running a little long of late. That's because when things are slow, the word count isn't quite so critical. But when the election hits, I will be shoveling faster than a snowplow driver in a blizzard. Also only two letters per writer a month.

That means I won't have time to work with writers to shorten their letters.

I don't single out letters I disagree with for special treatment, but if you think I do, why give me an excuse not to print them? Keep 'em short.

I find the best way to run a letters page is to have a hierarchy for what letters print. Mine is simple. Letters critical of the paper run first. Letters responding to other letter writers run second. Letters dealing with local issues run third (hopefully the prior two are in the same category). Letters dealing with national issues run fourth and thank-you letters run last. When there is a debate, I try to run the letters point, counterpoint, so there isn't a big block of letters with a single point of view. But, if one side isn't holding up its end, the other tends to take over.

Candidates are welcome to two letters for the duration of the campaign. I suggest those should be used for rebuttals. It is a little unseemly for a candidate to write a letter about how great they are. That's what campaign supporters are for. We will give the candidates a chance to tout themselves in two election publications, one for the primary and another for the general.

We will also provide coverage in the pages of the newspaper of each race and interview every candidate in a significant race.

Last year we made it down to the improvement districts, so it was pretty detailed.

Last election I had a lot of people who wanted to write guest opinions about national issues and I told them no. Anyone who wants to write a guest opinion about a local issue during the campaign is more than welcome.

If you detect a bias in all this it is because there is one. I'm biased in favor of the local. There will be a lot about national races in other newspapers, but it will be a point of pride for me to provide the best coverage of Douglas County's races.

n Kurt Hildebrand is editor of The Record-Courier. Reach him at khildebrand@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 215.


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