A letter to the editor is an opportunity to express opinion for the purpose of peer dialogue.
According to the historical article on letters to the editor in Wikipedia, letter essays have always been part of American newspaper journalism and were often crafted with care and notation. These letters provided, then, and now, an accessible avenue of publication for social and political discourse. They became associated with the editorial pages of the paper where professional opinion was also freely expressed.
Opinion, as defined by my Random House Dictionary, is “1. A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. A personal view, attitude, or appraisal. 3. The formal expression of professional judgment.”
Increasingly, the letters to the editor in this community newspaper are not opinion, but diatribes of certainty — never mind the insufficiency part — written in tones of ranting, raving, and character assassination that do not support discourse or dialogue.
Such letters are not helpful. They do not convey thought, fresh ideas, possible solutions, or any interest in entertaining another point of view.
I know the newspaper is struggling right now, but it is also a time we need your leadership. We need a thoughtful vision of what you consider newsworthy, and what you print in the opinion pages.
According the Wikipedia article, it is the role of an editor to read all submissions, “but in general most will automatically reject letters that include profanity, libelous statements, personal attacks against individuals or specific organizations …”
I am not suggesting censorship: I am suggesting that you hold letter writers to a submission standard; that you publish this standard and invite the opinion page back to its traditional richness and inquiry. I do see thoughtful letters here.
I know we islanders are capable of community engagement across polarities. We are waiting for you to intervene and provide all of Whidbey with a newspaper of unbiased reporting that models the middle ground.
This is one rock. I have thought for a while now, that Whidbey Island would benefit from one newspaper that actually introduced the various communities to one another in a concerted effort to communicate diverse opinions and ideas for how we live here.
The opinion page and the letters to the editor are a good place to start.
Editor’s note: Our policy is to not publish profanity, libelous statements or personal attacks on individuals or specific organizations.