Charles E. Richardson

Continuing a long tradition concerning letters to the editor

wmarshall@macon.com

In the tradition of my colleague Phil Dodson before he passed away, we published from time to time, what we’d like to see on our editorial pages. More specifically, our letters to the editor. I realized I have been a bad boy and not carried on Phil’s tradition very well. Phil has been gone since 2011 and I can’t remember following his lead since his passing.

I hope this goes a little further than the instructions printed in the paper and online. First, for the Mike Ganus’ of the world, we have a not-so-hard rule to publish only one letter a week from a writer. That not-so-hard rule gets broken every now and again and Mike is kind enough to keep track of my violations and remind me of every one of them.

Sometimes it’s just a mistake and other times the letter writer is responding to another published letter and I’m trying to get the response in the paper as quickly as possible.

How long does it take to get a letter in the paper? It depends. I try to get letters in the paper and online in the order received. That’s not always possible. Putting the letters together for our printed edition is akin to working a jigsaw puzzle. I only have so much space. And that brings me to another topic that ties in with how long it takes to get a letter printed or posted online. The shorter, the better — and the shorter the letter, the faster it will appear. That said, longer letters, in most cases, will only be published online. Another thing that speeds the process is email. Letters sent by snail mail take longer to process.

My philosophy about letters is pretty straight forward. I look for every reason to print a letter rather than reject it. I don’t have to agree with a writer’s point of view. If they have the courage to put their name, address and phone number (we only print the name and city of residence) behind their opinion, I’ll consider it. These pages are meant for the exchange of ideas. Yes, some of those ideas will raise temperatures. Others may be just plain wrong in your opinion. I generally allow you, the dear readers, to point out the errors of the writer’s ways, although I do step in at times when the factual error is so glaring that it needs addressing.

Saying that, I will tell you there are few things that do tick me off. If you’re going to attack someone or some thing, at least spell the name of the object of the attack, correctly. You would not believe some of the things I read and how off the mark the spelling can be. For some of our regular writers it might be a good idea for them to read other parts of the newspaper regularly before forming an opinion.

I will also let you in on a little secret. I am a department of one. I receive about 300 letters a week. I do not read all of them, and let me explain why without exaggeration. I have a few letter writers who send five or more letters a week. Only one gets in. How do I choose which one? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Just kidding. Most times it comes down to subject matter and length.

Form letters (mass mailings sent to a number of newspapers by different senders) are pretty easy to detect, and once detected they hit File 13, and I do put some letters through a plagiarism detector. It remains a top secret how I pick which letters come under added scrutiny.

To wrap this up, there are several ways to submit a letter to the editor. This information is on our website and printed in the paper daily. I can always be reached using the phone and addresses at the end of this column.

I have to be honest, I don’t check my Twitter feed often and my Facebook Messenger is hardly used, so if you’re trying to reach me in those ways, it’s probably not going to work. So to all my regulars out there, Frank Gadbois, Faye Tanner, Carolyn Effie, aka Joe Hubbard, Arthur Brook, John Kelley, Jim Costello and all the other great opinion contributors, keep it up.

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