Overview on How Letters to the Editor Actually Work
Every one of our loyal readers should know by now that I’m Editor-in-Chief of The Orinda News, and I’ve been in this seat for over a year and love my job!
I’m also a journalism teacher at Diablo Valley College, where I currently teach mass communication classes, the last few semesters online due to the pandemic. I also freelance write and take photos for other publications, something I’ve been doing for over 20 years.
Basically, I’m just setting up my “cred” for what I’m about to discuss.
I can’t help myself – it’s the teacher in me who wants to do a little teaching about how the letter to the editor works for our newspaper, and pretty much all newspapers and magazines.
First and foremost, let me say our newspaper does not always agree with the letters we receive and publish.
But one thing our team does agree with 100% of the time is that democracy is a gift to be cherished, and a key foundation of that democracy is the first amendment right prohibiting the abridgement of the free exercise of freedom of speech or of the press:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In the United States, our democracy gives us the opportunity to live in an informed society and to make important decisions based on that information. We realize some news deliverers are more informed than others and seek the objectivity that places us in that circle.
In the context of The Orinda News, that information comes from reporters, columnists and an editorial staff who strive to be objective for you – our readers. It comes from suggestions from our community. It also comes from readers, particularly Orinda residents, who want their voices heard through a letter to the editor. Pretty cool, huh?
Letters to the editors may not be factual or objective and are often opinion-filled.
Is it possible the letter-to-the-editor writer’s facts might be inaccurate? Absolutely.
That’s where research on your part comes into play.
And, since most everyone today has access to more information (via the Internet, books, print publications, TV, radio, trusted leaders or family and friends, etc.), we are confident our readers have the means to seek the truth.
Of course, if someone submits a letter to the editor riddled with blatant misinformation, prejudicial intolerance or personal vendetta, we, as a publication, have the right and responsibility to refuse publication.
So, here’s the rub. You can’t judge a publication by the letters it runs. Well, I guess you technically could – it’s your choice – but you must understand we may or may not agree with those letters. We simply agree with the First Amendment rights that underpin their appearance. It’s the letter writer and his or her opinion you should judge.
We strive to balance arguments in reporting, and prefer, especially if letters to the editor speak to one of the many divisions so striking in our body politic or community, that we have other letters to balance opposing points-of-view to an issue. To that end, we welcome and encourage all sides to speak out on issues raised by other letter writers.
Of course, space limitations might limit the number of letters to the editor that can appear in any edition.
That’s it. I just wanted to get that off my chest – just in case anyone was wondering how this whole letter to the editor thing works.
OH! I forgot to mention, in each monthly issue, we have in fine print (like who reads the fine print anymore?) the following: Views of writers and letters to the editor are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Orinda Association or of The Orinda News. Letters to the editor are printed on a space-available basis and should be no longer than 400 words.
One more thing – all letters to the editor are due by the 8th of each month – the month prior to publication. For example, if you’d like to have us publish a letter in December, it’s due by Nov. 8.