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Letter policy may be 3 months old, but we’re still following it
Written by Trista Steers MacVittie   
Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00

Since we instated our newest letters to the editor policy in early January, letter writers have done a great job of complying with our policy.

The policy simply states any facts or figures cited in a letter need to be backed up with credible documentation. Opinions, of course, do not.

What I’ve found is our readers are educating themselves.

When they submit a letter stating a public employee makes $200,000 — just an example to make my point — and I ask them for documentation, they are forced to go find out if what they’ve been told is true.

When they discover the employee actually only makes $100,000 they ask to pull their letter or revise it with the accurate numbers and sometimes differing opinion based on the actual facts.

Are some people upset they have to jump through hoops to be published? Of course, and some of them really don’t want to know the truth or still choose not to believe it even when they have the document in hand.

What the policy has done for our newspaper and community is promote accountability and stop the spread of misinformation.

We’ve made it known if you want to spout incorrect “facts,” our opinion page isn’t the place for it. There are plenty of blogs out there doing just that.

Some people stopped submitting letters since we instituted the policy, but I had a hunch this would happen when some writers were forced to back up their claims.

In the beginning, I had to remind people we needed proof of all facts, then they got the hang of it, but now I’ve noticed some have forgotten. So, here are a few of the main points of the policy to refresh our readers’ minds.

■ If a letter includes any facts or figures it must be accompanied by documentation proving the figures are accurate.

■ Letters simply stating opinions and not citing any figures or statements deemed to be facts can continue to be submitted as they were before. All we need is your letter — with a word count under 300 words, full name, telephone number and physical address. Your address and telephone number are used for verification purposes and will not be printed.

■ Opinions based on facts, regardless of whether we agree, are welcome, and we don’t have a problem with letter writers using facts to strengthen their arguments, but the facts need to be accurate.

■ Form letters will not be printed. We will not publish the same letter repeatedly.

Keep the letters coming. Sharing opinions and ideas is a healthy way to keep the community alive and moving forward.

 

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