The Valley News recently has experienced some concerns about letters to the editor, so I figured it was time to explain exactly what is expected in a letter to the editor and what we do here at the newspaper when we receive one.
We require all letters to the editor sent to us for publication to be signed and include a telephone number. Any letter that is unsigned and without a phone number that comes via fax or mail will most likely end up in the wastebasket. If one comes that way via email, I will hit “Reply” on my email and ask the person to sign the letter and include a phone number.
I will use that phone number to call you and confirm that you actually wrote the letter.
We do this because, as sad as it may be, there are people out there looking to harm or assault people by writing letters and pretending to be someone else. I am sure no one would like to read a letter with their name attached talking in favor of issues that you do not at all favor.
We would also hope that people writing letters are civil, not vicious and do not write anything that is libelous. An opinion is one thing – you can say you think Joe Blow is a horrible politician. But don’t say Joe Blow is a murderer.
Unless, well, this leads us to what we here at The Valley News do when we receive a letter.
If you wrote a letter saying Joe Blow is a murderer, you can be sure we will try to verify that by calling the court to see if Mr. Blow was ever convicted of murder or calling the state prison system to see if he ever spent time in jail for a murder conviction. If we can’t verify that information, the letter will be rejected.
That’s why it is of utmost importance for letter writers to use facts in their letters – and this means verifiable facts, not facts as you see it.
One letter received recently listed a bunch of “facts” dealing with a particular issue. As is my job, I called the state agencies and town officials to double check these “facts.” I found that nearly all of them were not true.
When a letter is found with factual errors, it is returned to the letter writer to be rewritten, if he or she desires.
We also, during this election season, have been receiving many letters from people throwing their support to one candidate or another. This is perfectly normal.
One candidate wrote to us stating he was upset that a letter was published from a person supporting his opponent and the letter writer did not live in his district. Frankly, there is no problem with a person from one part of Oswego County supporting a candidate in another part of the county. In fact, we’ve run a number of letters like this.
In one, Rita Hooper – who write our In and About Hannibal column – said she is a long-time resident of Hannibal, but now lives in Fulton. But she still was throwing her support to Dan Maheney for Hannibal highway superintendent. Two Oswego residents who used to reside in Granby have written in support of various Granby candidates.
So this is how we deal with letters here at The Valley News. We hope this clears the air a bit and makes it easier for people to write about their concerns and issues and send them to us. Letters are great vehicle for starting conversations in the community and those conversations help communities grow and prosper.