Letters always welcome

It can sometimes seem that there are way too many ways for us to communicate with each other.

There are texts, instant messages, tweets, posts on Facebook, posts on Instagram, posts on Snapchat.

An inconvenient truth about most forms of social media, however, is that they allow those who share their opinions to be somewhat anonymous, which in many cases dramatically lessens the value of any thoughts that might be shared.

That’s what makes the letters to the editor published in this newspaper and the hundreds of other newspapers across the country different. You’re invited to share your opinions with other readers and the community — all you have to do is be willing to have your name and community listed at the end of the letter.

Those opinions and thoughts, remember, are those of the writer and not necessarily that of the newspaper. Some submissions are thank-yous to supporters of charity events, some send thanks to individuals or organizations that have helped others, some take politicians — local, state and national — to task, some support political candidates — and some do not, some are written from a conservative point of view, some come from a liberal point of view.

Once again, our readers have taken advantage of the opportunity to share their thoughts on our pages and through our Website. The six letters to the editor that appear on Page 5A of today’s edition bring this year’s final count to 395.

No matter where you stand on a political or social issue, your thoughts are welcome — as long as you are willing to follow a few simple guidelines.

Each submission must include the town the writer lives in and a telephone number where he or she can be reached. The numbers are never published and are never given to anyone else. We use that information for confirmation purposes and to get in contact with the writer in the event we have questions about the letter.

Individual writers are limited to one submission every four weeks — with very few exceptions. Attacks on individuals and businesses are not allowed, and neither are known form letters, unsigned letters or submissions that are determined to be libelous or slanderous.

While we respect all opinions, letter writers need to remember that there are some readers who disagree with those opinions, and they are allowed to respond with their opposing views. What we don’t allow are responses to responses. That helps to keep the dialogue as civil as possible, and opens up space for other writers.

There is a 500-word limit on the length of letters. That can be a difficult number to write to, but if you insist that your 691-word letter just can’t be cut any more, we won’t be able to publish it. You will not be alone — length is the most common reason for rejection. And if you are looking for a rough guideline, when you reach the end of this sentence, you will have read 500 words.

Some readers believe there are some politicians who are safe from comment. Others insist we only run letters that represent a specific political point of view. Don’t believe them — as long as a submission conforms to our guidelines, we will run it. If for any reason we don’t publish a letter we will offer an explanation to the writer. And, while we are not able to help a reader write a letter, we will work with them and explain what is needed to make the letter eligible for print.

Remember: We reserve the right to edit or reject an submission — and letters with multiple signatures are not permitted.

Letters and guest columns normally run in our Sunday editions, but there are some weeks when we have to run them on a Saturday or even a Friday, based on the number of submissions in a particular week. We can’t guarantee a letter or guest column will appear on a specific day. The most letters we published on a Sunday this year was 18, and that happened Oct. 18. We ran 11 letters twice (Aug. 12 and Oct. 14), nine letters four times (March 18, March 25, April 29 and Nov. 18) and eight letters 13 times (Jan. 14, Feb. 11, Feb. 18, May 13, May 20, July 29, Aug. 5, Aug. 26, Sept. 9, Sept. 16, Nov. 11, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.)

It’s OK to submit a handwritten or typed letter, but electronic submission works best, either by e-mail or through our Virtual Newsroom.

All word processing programs show you the number of words in a document — and that makes it easy to know when you’ve hit 500.

Open discussion and the willingness to study the opinions of others are critical to allowing our government to work. That’s a function in society that newspapers have fulfilled for centuries.

You want your voice to be heard — and we’re willing to offer a forum for your thoughts to be shared. It’s a commitment we first made on June 7, 1806, and one we plan to honor for many years to come.

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

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