Editorial: Lend us your words

Editorial: Lend us your words

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There’s something brilliant about a letter. In fact, one of the best ways to test one’s writing skill is in the art of correspondence. Try reading “A Life in Letters” by Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, to see the unique power of the written word. 

Each and every one of our readers letters has power and each and every word counts. Just like news stories, your letters might be capable of prompting change, or inspiring another individual, typically in 400 words or less.

With that power, every letter writer also has a responsibility to readers, and we at TBR News Media would like to clarify just what is at stake when you send in a letter to us. 

As journalists, we are the community’s closest connection between people and government, covering news and events that impact people’s lives on the local level. We especially welcome letters that touch on recent articles, even if it’s something as seemingly benign as roadwork near your house or a neighbor down the road setting off fireworks well past July 4. 

We edit for A.P. style, which is the standard in most U.S.-based news publications. If you were wondering why we only use a person’s last name after the first reference, for instance, that is why. It helps maintain coherence over the many thousands of words contained in each and every issue.

But we also edit for length, libel and good taste. These last three items that have especially been a bone of contention for some of our writers. Lately, many of our letters relate to national issues and the policies of President Donald Trump (R) and include incessant squabbling between the two major political parties. We would never alter your opinion, but we do have an obligation to make sure the facts you cite conform with the truth.

We ask that our writers provide sources or backup information with letters, so we can fact-check the information. 

We’ve received letters using derogatory nicknames for Trump, former President Barack Obama (D) and other legislators and political figures. We have done our best to edit out this potentially defamatory language. Some writers might disagree with this. But, we have also received letters berating other letter writers, and we have looked to soften that language to invite more civil discourse. 

Our view is the “Letters to the Editor” page serves as a form of public debate. Its purpose is to argue the issues, not personally attack an individual. Yes, please send us letters on what you think about the issues of the day, but when letters cross the line, they cheapen or even invalidate their arguments to knock at a supposed rival, or to drag people who live close to us through the mud.

We make a conscience effort to fairly represent opposing views to avoid discrimination. In fact, we find it most interesting and useful when we include letters from people on multiple sides of an issue. 

The majority of letters we get today concern the national discourse, and are essentially a mirrored reflection of the tirades and proceedings we see from people who are supposed to represent the best of us, the majority of us. 

Let’s raise the bar.

Instead of parroting the rhetoric of politicians and pundits, who regularly resort to insults, rely instead on the laws of logic and critical thinking. Analyzing arguments in the free marketplace of ideas is one hell of a responsibility. We the people hope we all take that responsibility seriously. Since accountability is the basis of democracy, let’s give it the gravity it deserves.

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