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Jack Zaleski, Published May 19 2012

Zaleski: Gentle reminder about political letters

It’s necessary during every election cycle to remind letter writers about The Forum’s guidelines for letters. Politics brings out the worst in some partisans, and, these days, a poisonous political climate nourishes the dark side. The tenor and tone of letters The Forum receives have become less civil and more strident, which, I surmise, is nothing more than a reflection of what passes for political discourse in 2012.

Therefore, our letters and commentary columns tend to mirror what’s out there, whether respectful or insulting, honest or manipulative, factual or disingenuous. Hey, folks, it’s who you are.

That being said, not every letter makes the cut. First, there are too many of them (60 or more a day; more in a political season). Second, shorter letters have a better chance of seeing ink because we strive to get as many voices on the page as space each day allows. Third, as has been the standard long before the editorial pages became my responsibility, we do not publish anonymous letters. No exceptions. We require complete name, address and phone number(s) for verification purposes. We publish only name, city and, occasionally, affiliation if it is relevant to the writer’s topic.

By the way, those basic guidelines are published every day on the editorial page. Hard to miss. Not complicated.

I realize that every letter writer believes his/her letter is just short of a biblical passage, and that the wisdom therein must – must – be published in the letters section. It’s my job to make the selection, to cull ’em out, to relegate many to the dead file. Don’t call. Don’t complain. Don’t plead the case that your letter is way better than those we chose to print. I’ll listen, usually politely, and stick with the decision I’ve made.

Finally, to the political machines cranking up: Don’t insult us (and readers) with letter-writing campaigns. Technology makes it easier to pull off those smarmy efforts, but eventually we detect them and dump the canned letters, and then get very wary about any letter supporting a particular candidate. And does it get any more dishonest and dishonorable to allow one’s name to be attached to a letter written by some overpaid political operative?

So, remember: Keep it short. Keep it original. Keep it as civil as possible in today’s political climate. I say “as possible” because the toxicity of politics is what it is, and it surely will affect the cast and color of letters to the editor.


Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.