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Letters promoting ideas, discussion get higher priority | Publisher's column

June 22, 2013 · Updated 10:39 AM
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By Keven Graves

Whidbey News-Times readers are extremely passionate about their newspaper.

I learned that pretty quickly.

Coming from a community that wasn’t as engaged or as willing to share opinions, I have a great appreciation for this strong sense of ownership.

I also learned that News-Times readers don’t hold back when they don’t like something I’ve written or a policy I’ve enforced.

Case in point, I received a complaint this week after I published a “thank you” letter without the long list of businesses attached to the end.

Opinion pages are valuable real estate in any community newspaper that enjoys an engaged readership.

The space is intended to be a forum for healthy debate and an exchange of ideas.

Rather than be forced to hold letters over, we aim to get as many of them as possible into each edition of the newspaper.

Because I respect those readers who take time to write and submit their opinions, I tend to be less rigid on length, though extremely long letters may be returned to the writers for additional editing.

A letter that doesn’t offer an opinion or lend itself to a discussion isn’t going to be as high on the list of letters awaiting publication.

Publishing letters with a list of businesses attached is problematic for several reasons. First, as I mentioned, there’s often other letters in the queue waiting to be published.

Second, a newspaper is a business, one that relies on advertising to employ professionals to gather news, write articles, produce the paper and get it to homes and on newsstands on time. An opinion page shouldn’t be an avenue for free advertising.

Lastly, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s nearly impossible to get it back in. One long list begets another, and then another.

Do readers want to comb through a list of names on their letters page? I suspect not.

Are “thank you” lists important? You bet. But there are more appropriate areas of the newspaper for them to appear.


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