The Journal encourages letters to the editor, and we frequently publish our policy on letters to the editor. We recognize that the public should have the opportunity for its voice be heard. Unfortunately, many people choose to let their voice be heard in the form of a voice mail in which they fail to leave a name or number, or in the form of an anonymous letter.
Some of our rules include:
- Letters should be no more than 300 words and must include the writer's name, address and telephone number.
- Anonymous letters will not be published. I typically get four or five anonymous letters per month. Many times the writer makes valid points, but per our policy, the letter ends up in the trash can.
- Every letter may be edited for length, clarity and content. Any letter deemed libelous or in poor taste will not be published. A lot of people have a hard time with this one, simply because they feel they should have the right to publish whatever they wish, not realizing that legal issues - in the form of slander and libel suits - may surface.
The Journal provides an avenue, and we encourage our readers to take advantage.
- "Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing," is another item in the SPJ Code of Ethics.
The many newspapers I've worked for have done just that, but sometimes the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
I find it funny when I'm doing a story and Joe Citizen makes an allegation toward Jane Citizen, and I call Jane to get a comment, but she isn't willing to talk. The funny part is when we run the story and Jane gets upset because we put something to the effect of "Jane Citizen declined to comment on the case."
- "Distinguish between advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two," is often a hot topic around this newsroom.
Our ad folks are always wanting the reporters to do stories on Company B when there really isn't a story to be written. They are just wanting another avenue to sell an ad.
Newsrooms and ad folks have gone round and round on this issue. They probably will for years.
Mike Moore is the editor of The Jessamine Journal in Nicholasville, a sister newspaper of The Winchester Sun. The Sun's policy on letters to the editor is identical to the Journal's.