To the letter
Shutterstock photo, Copyright: qvist
There’s nothing a newspaper editor loves more than getting letters to the editor, even if they’re angry, insulting, or they begin with “Dear Mr. Editor,”.... Hey, I’ve been called worse.
So it’s such a privilege this week to have received more letters than we have room to print and while I may not always agree with what letter-writers have to say, I’ll do my best to offer a platform, provided the basic tenets of courtesy are followed.
A recent letter-writer was critical of a cover that featured the recovery of a stolen Chihuahua (this is sometimes front-page news in community newspapers, that’s just the way it is) saying we shouldn’t be promoting pet stores and also should not take advertising money from hunting and fishing outlets. It’s a slippery slope to refuse advertising revenue from what some readers may perceive as offensive and while the news story pertained to the recovery of the one-pound Blue Chihuahua thanks to the joint efforts of two police organizations (can’t make this stuff up) it was not written to ‘promote’ any commercial interest.
Another writer said he was rather disappointed that I would express my ‘judgemental opinion’ in an editorial about Selfie Sticks. If I were to editorialize in any part of the paper but the editorial, I would have certainly not done my job as an editor. Or, for that matter, as a journalist.
I once worked for a newspaper where the editor received an 11-page manifesto about an alien invasion that was said to have originated in the Niagara Falls region and was headed straight for the West Island. He left the printout on my desk with an attached Post-it note that read, “Carmen, please give me 500 words on this” then watched my reaction from a safe distance.
If the letters we receive reflect a cross-section of society, then for the most part, we’re doing okay. It’s touching that people will take the time from their busy lives to drop a positive note about a memorable experience, or an open letter commending a positive action in their community. It’s also heartening that residents will exercise their democratic rights in commenting on local political issues, whether they attended their respective council meetings or read a subsequent journalist’s report. Got something to say about the state of healthcare and our long-promised area hospital? Drop me a line.
We often joke that what doesn’t make it into the paper is infinitely more interesting than what does make it in. With letters, however, what doesn’t make it in is often more sad, exasperating, and sometimes downright frightening.
A recent xenophobic “How-to” list purporting ways we can protect ourselves from “terrorists” fails to take into consideration that we already had murders, sexual assaults, wife-beating, radicalized political diatribes, and hate speech in Canada all on our own without pointing fingers at any one ethnic group.
That people still harbour, nurture, and aim to perpetuate misconceptions about religious and ethnic groups, and seek a public platform for their paranoid and misinformed rants, are some of the worst things I can read after the words “Dear Editor.”