Your opinions matter

If you’re looking for a place where you can share your opinions with your friends and neighbors, a place where you can take your elected and appointed officials to task or just a place to say thanks to those who have helped with a charity event, the newspaper remains the perfect forum.

Residents of the Tri-State Area have known that for a long time now, and they demonstrated that once again during this past year. Take a look at Page 5B in today’s edition. You’ll find three letters to the editor, which are the last ones we will publish in 2017. That brings the total for the year to 347. Add to that the 56 guest columns we have run, and you will see that residents of the region have had a lot to say about things that are happening in their communities, their states and the nation.

Letters to the editor have been a standing feature in newspapers since the industry was started. It’s a tradition that we have been more than happy to continue since our first edition was printed on June 7, 1806.

Topics always have varied widely, and have ranged from simple thank-yous to politics on all levels of government. And, one of the great mysteries is that you can never really gauge what weeks will attract the greatest number of submissions.

Generally, though, we can count on receiving the greatest number of submissions in the period right before or right after an election. That was the case once again this year. The largest number of submissions we printed in any single edition was 13, and that happened on Oct. 29. We printed 12 letters in the editions Oct. 12, Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, and 11 letters in the editions of July 17, Oct. 8 and Nov. 5. The lowest number of submissions we printed during a week was three, and that happened three times, on Feb. 5, Sept. 3 and today.

Certainly, the race for mayor in Steubenville dominated submissions received in September, October and November, and that was a positive thing. It showed that readers were interested in letting their views be known about each of the four candidates who sought to replace longtime Mayor Domenick Mucci, who told our editorial board in January that he had decided to not seek re-election.

We have very few guidelines when it comes to submitting letters to the editor. Letters that are personal attacks on individuals or businesses are not permissible, and neither are letters that we deem to be libelous. If we do decide not to publish a specific letter, we will contact the writer and tell him or her the reason it has been rejected.

The most common reason a letter will be rejected is because of length — our limit is 500 words per submission for a letter. Wondering just how long that is? Consider that when you have finally reached the end of this sentence, you will have read 499 words.

Letters and guest columns are opinion pieces, and the thoughts and ideas of the writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the newspaper. Writers do have to remember, though, that if you choose to share your opinions in a public forum, other readers have the opportunity to offer their responses.

A response to a response, however, is not permitted.

There’s a limit of one submission every four weeks. That gives greater opportunity for more readers to share their thoughts. Those submissions can come through e-mail, our Virtual Newsroom, good, old-fashioned mail or be dropped off at our office. Electronic submissions are preferred.

We do require that every letter we publish carry the name and hometown of the writer. Every submission must include a contact number we can use to reach the writer for confirmation purposes or if there is a question we need to ask. The contact information is never published or shared with anyone else.

Anonymous letters will not be published — if you want to state an opinion or be critical of an elected official, you need to be willing to stand behind your thoughts, and not be looking to criticize behind the cover of a made-up name such as, let’s say, idiot123. We also won’t publish a letter with multiple signatures.

It’s important to make your opinions known on issues that affect our area. We’re happy to be able to provide a platform where that discussion can take place.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)