LETTER: How to improve Letters to the Editor
Originally addressed To our new editor:
Sir: I would like to suggest two improvements to your policy for publishing letters to the editor.
The first is that you insist on some standard of civility. It is good policy to publish letters representing different points of view, and it is even fine that the authors present their cases with zeal. But there should be no place for name calling or unsupported bashing of others, be they businesses or people. Your readers recently had the misfortune of reading an exchange between two letter writers about gas prices. Whatever merits there might have been to their opinions were overshadowed by their lack of civility. These recent letters are only an example; this is not an isolated incident. So I suggest that when you receive letters that don’t meet a standard of civility, you return them to the authors and suggest that they re-write them.
The second suggestion will be more difficult, but worthwhile, to implement, and that is to encourage the writers to offer some factual rationale to support their opinions. Letters that are nothing more than a gushing of the writer’s emotions add little to the intellectual debate or understanding of your readers. I believe that these suggestions would be a service to the writers of letters, and the resulting product would show greater respect to your paper’s readers.
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