Monday, November 3, 2008

The mailbag

I understand most readers don't fully appreciate what it takes to publish a newspaper. That's our job, not theirs.

But I'm always amazed this time each year about what folks are thinking when it comes to the submission of letters to the editor on political races.

It's never possible to print all the letters we receive, even when it's not campaign season. Too many letters, too little space. That problem multiplies two- and three-fold at election time.

So, here's a given: A majority of letters don't get published. It has nothing to do with whether or not we agree with the content. Priority for publication goes to shorter letters and those written by people from whom we don't usually hear. (A tip: We occasionally print longer letters if they're well-written and make their points in a compelling manner. That said, readers typically don't have the patience to read long letters. You're better off saying what you have to say in several paragraphs.)

When we receive many letters on the same topic, we print them proportionately. In other words, if we get 50 letters on a subject (including elections), 40 on one side, 10 on the other, we may only use 10, eight on one side, two on the other.

But here's the part that amazes me this time of year: Here it is, mid-morning on the day before the election and we're still receiving letters about the candidates. We're talking about letters unlikely to have been published even if we received them a week ago. Arriving the day before election? You must be kidding.

Yet people apparently think we're sitting around here on Election Eve waiting to fill space with late letters. That's not the way it works in the world of print.

But if you want to get in the last word, post a comment under the elections stories at Sign your name, be tasteful, don't commit libel and/or make allegations that have never arisen before and you'll will get in. The more the merrier, even at the 11th hour.
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