Over the past couple of weeks, I and Pilot Publisher David Woronoff have fielded questions from folks about the paper’s Letters to the Editor section of the Opinion page. We’ve been asked — in ways ranging from polite to incredulous — what our standards are for publishing letters we receive.
The letters section has long been a common part of every newspaper opinion section and serves as the community’s opportunity to express opinions on issues. We try not to place too many restrictions on writers. We basically ask you to keep your thoughts to 300 words. That’s it.
Like every newspaper, The Pilot reserves the right to publish — or not publish — letters. I routinely dismiss letters that come from writers out of town writing about generic issues.
For instance, after every mass shooting, we regularly receive a number of letters from around the world about the broad issue of gun control and Second Amendment rights. Letters also roll in from around the world about abortion, President Donald Trump and similar matters. But this is a community newspaper, and we reserve our limited space for local writers.
We also don’t publish consumer disputes. If you have a complaint with a business or service provider, Letters to the Editor is not your place to resolve that dispute or “get even.” And lastly, we exercise our professional experience to prevent libel and other legal issues that could be trouble for both the writer and this newspaper. But fair comment is fair game.
Letters are submitted to us a number of ways. In the paper, we say letters can be mailed or submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We used to have a gmail address but have since discontinued that. If you have been using it, please use the new email address.
We also get letters submitted from our website. Under the “Opinion” section of the thepilot.com, it gives an option to send in your letter.
Lastly, David and I also get letters emailed to us directly, many times from frequent letter writers or those who know us personally. We usually get a few of those a week. Occasionally, we also get opinions from folks who don’t want to have their comments printed, and they express that. We respect that and don’t publish them.
As for the letters we get, each is edited. Some writers choose to overuse CAPITALIZATION randomly for emphasis. Please don’t. I spend more time correcting that, spelling and punctuation than anything else.
When it comes to subjects, we prefer opinions related to local matters. We are a local paper concerned with Moore County. So while we do carry others’ opinions about national politics and issues, we prioritize letters that deal with Moore County matters.
You will invariably read letters that you agree with and others that lead you to call the editor and publisher to ask what we were thinking. We strive to publish a variety of opinions — conservative, liberal and everything in between.
We do not shy away from letters that are critical of us. Newspapers might be the only business that takes negative criticism about itself and publishes it for all to see.
And while we do not necessarily encourage “bomb throwing” in letters, we also believe in a vigorous discourse of issues and don’t shy away from what seems to go as political discourse these days. What you might see as a letter that’s mean-spirited or uncivil could also be instructive in what passes these days for public commentary.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the substance of letters take a decidedly barbed approach, with folks sometimes committing words to paper they might not otherwise utter in person or polite company. That’s fine, but just know that if you choose that course, be prepared for responses from others taking issue with your words or opinion.
As we move into this fall’s election season, we will surely see the letters take on more of a political charge. And the next year’s presidential campaign won’t be far behind. Letters to the Editor is your forum to express your view, and we welcome all comers.
Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or email@example.com.