Brian Sandford: Letters play a big role in our democracy

Imagine an Internet chat room in which participants have time to consider their thoughts, write longer-form rebuttals and see their names in print every so often.

That’s our Letters to the Editor.

A good newspaper is a repository of information and ideas, the latter of which feature prominently on our Opinion pages. This column tells you where I’m coming from, while our editorial tells you where the Appeal is coming from. Neither is the lifeblood of the Opinion pages. Your letters are.

A few readers contacted the Appeal last week, expressing concern about the religion-related letters we’d been publishing. One of them was surprised to learn we publish every letter that meets our guidelines, ensuring that the letters are as conversational as possible.

What are our guidelines? We don’t publish letters that are vulgar, inappropriately critical of other letter writers, written under false names, too self-serving or too long. We limit people to 250 words per letter and one letter per month to ensure everyone has a chance to have his or her say. We’ve got other standards, but those are our key tenets.

We published several religion-related letters last week because that’s what people were writing to us about. Some previous letters had inspired debate, and other readers wanted to weigh in.

That’s what Letters to the Editor are for; they’re the essence of free speech. Have an opinion? Send it to us; the contact information is on the preceding page. As long as it doesn’t violate some of the previously listed tenets, we’ll print it. We appreciate that you read us, and we appreciate any and all participation.


A few readers recently expressed concern about our right-leaning columnists. Admittedly, they do tilt us to the right sometimes, and even readers who wrote that they like our columnist lineup acknowledged that they’d be just fine with a left-leaning voice.

Balance is important to any journalist, and I’d like to add a left-leaning columnist. The pay is basically me taking you out to lunch once a month, but the appreciation is much greater. If you know of a good candidate, please encourage him or her to take some time and then submit four columns to me at the email address at the end of this column. I aim to choose a new columnist by mid-May.

• Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at


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