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Letters and a few rules
August 4, 2012 - Brad Siddons
As many in the United States are expressing themselves — and being slammed for exercising their First Amendment rights — I'm thinking of the rules we have at this newspaper for you folks out there who wish to express your views.
Rules, in a word fight? Well, sure, you have to have rules. Some of them are based on pure logic and common sense, and others on pure grammar, spelling and punctuation. We expect you to follow the rules. If you don't your letters to the editor might just wind up in File 13 — the trash bin.
OK, so what am I talking about? Let's start with the rules that appear just about every day on Page A4, otherwise known as the Opinion page. If you look at the Opinion page — and I mean really look at it — you can't help but see the box with the headline “Readers' opinions” that spells out the rules about what constitutes a proper letter. You see, you are privileged to have freedom of expression in this great nation, but don't think for a minute that this or any U.S. newspaper is obligated to print that item for you. Oh, we try to publish as many properly submitted letters as we can, but you do have to follow the rules. It is, after all, a business whose owners put up the money for equipment — a press, computers, etc. — and take the risks associated with publishing today in our lawsuit-happy society.
So we have rules about appropriate content that is not obscene, libelous or otherwise defamatory. And we ask that you properly identify yourself with address and phone number. While we never publish full mailing addresses — we never print unsigned letters — or phone numbers, except at the request of the author, we do insist that you include them, especially the phone number. We use that to confirm letters. That's one that many folks seem to miss, and that can keep your letter off the page.
So if you've sent a letter to the editor of The Sentinel, and it hasn't been printed, check to see if you included name, address and phone number. If you didn't, you can give us a call at 248-6741.
If you have access to a computer, send your letters via our Virtual Newsroom. Second in line behind the VN is good old email, to our general delivery box at email@example.com, editor Frank Jost at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com.
Of course, you can use snail-mail, or bring your letters right to our office. Just make sure they are neat and legible. And make sure to include your name, address and that phone number.
A few final words about cleaning up your act a bit. Please, don't use your phones as letter-writing machines. I can spot a phone letter a mile away: One paragraph, often without much in the way of punctuation or proper spelling. That kind of sloppiness can also get your letter tossed.
I realize that smart phones are here to stay, and may someday replace the personal computer altogether. For now, at least, that's no excuse for sloppy letters. Clean up your act, follow the rules, and you're more likely to see your letter on page A4.
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