What's up with those letters to the editor?

I got a note from someone I know who canceled his subscription over a letter to the editor.

I have a vague sense of deja vu on this one. I think he may have done it before.

The letter was one of the more vehement of those we publish from folks who are on one side or the other when it comes to the national political scene. As usual, the accusation was that the newspaper is on one side or the other because clearly our mothers and fathers weren't married.

Some days letter writers have us in the politburo and others we're the disciples of Josef Goebbels, depending on which side the letter writer is on.

Just to be clear, we don't write the letters to the editor, nor do we pick and chose which letters to run. We just don't get enough to do that. I say us, because there are six people in the newsroom and rejecting a letter is a rare enough occurrence that I seek input from the editorial board, which is all of us.

If we agreed with all the opinions expressed by the letters we publish, we would be spinning around like tops.

My preference is that the letters published in The Record-Courier all be about issues happening here in the Valley. But we live in a global age, and there are lots of people who have something to say about national and international issues, and we provide a forum for them to say it.

But those are the letters we get in the most trouble with readers for. Our readers will look at the letters they disagree with and say our willingness to print them means we agree with them. That's not so. The letters are the opinion of the letter writer. We're not experts on national issues, and we don't try to be. If someone disagrees with a letter writer, then they're welcome to write and say why they disagree.

It's true that many of our letter writers are regular correspondents. Why would we punish them by refusing their material? That's like telling a regular customer to stop coming into the store.

Those who are willing to write a letter to the editor to raise an issue are a rare breed. They are willing to state their opinions and sign them.

By the way, we require that someone put their name on a letter to the editor. That's its power. If you just want to comment, there's a place to do that on the Web page.

I anticipate the election season's going to start early, and I've already received some letters regarding candidates.

Our opinion appears in the left-hand column of the editorial page. It represents the opinion of the newspaper and its staff.

We don't take on many national issues in the editorial. We prefer to talk about this place, hopefully guiding debate about Carson Valley, or at least prompting the occasional broadside at our amazing ignorance about things that happen right in front of us.

That's great, that's part of the reason we keep writing them.

It also allows us to share a perspective about an issue that perhaps might not come across in a news story.

Guest columns are often the result of either a request, or just a particularly long letter that doesn't fit anywhere else.

We don't run guest opinions on national issues primarily because if we opened that door, I don't think we'd ever get it closed again.

On Wednesday's we run a cartoon drawn by artist Eric Holland. Eric reads the paper and comes up with the topics on his own.

We run some portion of the letters policy every issue, depending on the editorial's long-windedness.

I hope that gives folks some idea of what we're doing here. Thanks for sticking with us.

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


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