Gun rights. Health care. Sunday alcohol sales.
These are some of the topics that have been on people’s minds this past week. Individuals have written letters to the editor to express their opinions on each, and they have been published on The Republic’s Opinion Page.
Real people. Real opinions. Real insightful.
I thank each of the writers on these and other topics for standing up and making their feelings known. Last year, we published 421 local letters.
Since letters to the editor require a person’s name and city to be published with their opinion, it puts writers “out there.”
That’s out in the public eye, not “out there” in the backwoods where no one can see you. That’s “out there” as in opening yourself up for potential criticism.
It’s far easier to make your opinions known anonymously, such as writing an Onion or Orchid, which appear on Page 2 of The Republic.
Readers also can comment on stories that are published online. Lots of people do. These comments are also public, as writers’ names and cities are used. For example, there were more than 50 comments last week on a single story about the possibility of a new health care provider coming to Columbus. We welcome those comments, too.
But what differentiates letters to the editor that are published in the newspaper and posts made online is that a print letter writer needs to provide context with an opinion. It’s a stand-alone essay, requiring an explanation of the issue, the writer’s opinion and usually supporting points.
It takes considerable thought, time and space to successfully make your case and get others to agree with your point of view.
The Republic’s policy for letters to the editor allows writers to use up to 600 words. That’s quite liberal compared to policies at other newspapers where I have worked. At my last paper in Ohio, the limit was 250 words. I have seen newspapers who cut off letter writers at 100 words.
The shorter the letters, the more room there is to publish more opinions.
Also, the quicker you make your point, the more likely readers will stay with it. Letter writers face the same challenge as news writers. You had better get to the gist of the issue in the first few paragraphs or reader are going to look elsewhere for something that interests them more.
A few other points about our letter to the editor policy:
- Because of space and legal considerations, The Republic reserves the right to edit letters. If you’re going to libel someone, you’re going to take us with you. That’s not good for you or the newspaper, so a potentially libelous letter will either get edited or rejected. Often, we give the writers the option to make the change themselves. But sometimes with just a quick fix we can avoid a troublesome word or phrase, and most letter writers are fine with that.
- Writers are invited to submit one letter every 30 days.
- We don’t publish copies of letters that are actually written to someone else, such as an elected official.
- Also, the letter to the editor forum is not a good fit for consumer complaints. We urge those readers to work with the businesses themselves or pursue other options to resolve their issues.
- We require writers to submit a daytime telephone number so we can verify who sent it. Phone numbers are not published.
- At election time we do not accept letters from political candidates once they have announced their intention to seek a particular office. We also establish a cut-off date for political letters at least a week before the voting.
There are several ways you can submit a letter to the editor.
Type it out. Print it out. Put a stamp on it. Mail it in. That’s the old-fashioned way, and it’s fine with us.
You can also compose it electronically and send it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We actually prefer it that way, as it means we don’t have to retype your letter, reducing the chance of error.
There’s a second electronic option. From therepublic.com homepage, click on “contact us,” then “submissions,” then “letter to the editor.” Fill out the form, hit submit and you’re done.
The Opinion Page should be a collection point for diverse opinions on topics that matter to a community. We welcome and appreciate yours.
Super Bowl power outage
Some of you will recall that my column last Sunday talked about a recent power outage I’d experienced at home. Published on Super Bowl Sunday, the column expressed hope that there would not be a power outage during that evening’s Super Bowl broadcast.
So don’t blame electrifying halftime entertainer Beyonce Knowles for causing the additional 34-minute break in the game.
And neither should you suspect the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee for sabotaging efforts for New Orleans to be granted the game again in 2018, when Indy also wants to host it.
I wrote it. I jinxed it. It’s my fault. So now we know what really happened.
Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at email@example.com.