As both political parties have selected their candidates for the House District 45 special election in June, we figured it was time once again to examine our letters to the editor policy, and solicit your input.
The full policy can be found at lcnme.com/other-submissions-guide, but here are some of the highlights:
Priority will be given to letters that consider local issues or concerns. Letters that express national and state issues should provide a link or impact to Lincoln County.
Please limit letters to 500 words or less, and send no more than two letters a month.
Letters will be edited for grammar, punctuation, and clarity.
The Lincoln County News will not publish letters that contain hate speech, personal attacks, or name calling; promotions or sales; letters that are not directed to the editor; or information that could cause harm.
The Lincoln County News reserves the right to reject letters for any reason.
There are a few more guidelines regarding general letters of thanks and the requirement that all submissions include the writer’s name and town of residence, as well as additional rules for letters from political candidates for office, but it’s really the items above that we’re looking for feedback on.
We’ve updated our policy a couple times over the past few years, the most recent changes coming about in March 2022, and for the most part, we think it’s held up all right.
Occasionally we’ll have a letter come in over the word limit, and most times the author will be amenable to trimming a few words. If a letter comes in to rebut one previously published in our pages, we’ll substitute the original writer’s name with “the author.” Sometimes people do not wish to provide their name for publication, at which point the letter is considered incomplete and is dismissed.
There have, however, been some unique situations.
Say it’s an election season, and a member of select board wants to write two letters, one supporting the House candidate in their district and another supporting the Senate candidate. However, within the same month, there’s a municipal happening that the select board member wants to write a letter about. Should we allow a third letter? Or should we hold them to the two-letter limit, even if they are “wearing a different hat,” so to speak?
When a letter comes in about a state or national issue without a tie to Lincoln County, we indicate the letter should only run if there is space on the editorial page. Space available varies week to week, so a letter without ties to our community is less likely to run. We offer no guarantee any letter will be published.
We allow political letters up until two weeks before any election. That final week, we do not publish any political letters to the editor with substantive claims about a candidate or issue, as those in opposition would not have any time to respond if they wish.
We’ve dealt with our fair share of complaints regarding these examples, as well as a handful of others. So we are once again turning to you, our readers, to ask if we should consider different practices.
From now through Wednesday, April 19, please submit any suggestions for the letters policy updates to firstname.lastname@example.org. All respectful, constructive comments will be taken under advisement, and if needed, we’ll provide an update to the policy in the April 27 edition. In the meantime, any letters submitted between now and then must meet our current standards.
We look forward to hearing from you!