The letters to the editor and guest columns you will find on this page and on Pages 5B and 6B of today's edition represent the final submissions for 2013.
In case you're curious, the nine letters today bring the final count to 530, while the guest columns written by Mike Wigal and Steven Salt are the 61st and 62nd we've published this year.
Those numbers say a great deal about our readers. They indicate that residents of the Tri-State Area care about what's happening in their neighborhoods, across the region and throughout the nation.
We've always welcomed submissions from our readers, and you've always been happy to respond. The rules we have are simple - letters are limited to 500 words and any individual writer is limited to one submission every four weeks, with almost no exceptions. Attacks on individuals or businesses are not permitted, but writers are certainly welcome to take elected and appointed officials to task.
Our letters cover many topics that vary from week to week. During the course of the year, many submissions will center on politics, from the township level to the village and city level, from the county level to the state level and from that point to the national level. Other letters offer praise from friends and neighbors who extend a helping hand. Still others are written to thank the efforts of all who help with fundraisers.
It's impossible to know in advance which weeks will attract the greatest number of letters. The submissions always increase in the weeks before an election, with school levy issues seeming to attract the greatest interest.
In 2013, the largest number of letters we printed in a single edition was 21. That happened on Jan. 13 and came in the midst of the regional and national publicity our area was attracting from the Steubenville rape case. We also printed 18 letters in the Feb. 10 edition and 17 letters in the March 24 edition.
Letters and guest columns represent an opportunity for all of our readers to let their voices be heard. Contrary to what you might think, we don't refuse to publish letters in an effort to "protect" individuals. As long as a submission meets ourcriteria and is not libelous, we will publish it. If we are not able to publish a letter, we contact the writer and tell him or her the reason the submission was rejected.
Many times, that's simply because of length. Space on our pages is at a premium, and that's why we stick to the 500-word limit. It can be difficult to tell some stories in 500 words, I know, but know that if you tell us that 575 words is the shortest you can make the submission, we won't be able to publish it. (Just to offer some perspective and give you an idea what 500 words can look like, when you reach the end of this sentence, you will have read 495 words.)
Oh, yes, we reserve the right to edit or reject any letter or guest column submitted for publication.
Remember, too, that letters and guest columns are more often than not the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the newspaper. That said, writers who chose to share their opinions with the public must be willing to accept that not everyone will agree with their words, and understand that other writers are welcome to present their own opinions, which might not be the same as yours.
That said, we don't allow responses to responses. That means if a writer offers a response to a letter you have written, you can't respond back. It's time to move onto another topic.
While the topic, lengths and style of each submission is unique, there is one very important constant: Every letter must run with the name of the author and his or her town attached. That's important, especially in a day and age when anonymous postings are becoming the rule and not the exception. Be proud of your opinion and be willing to back it up - and don't look to hide behind the cover of a clever online moniker. For example, a letter written by John Q. Public of Steubenville carries a lot more weight than an opinion offered up by responseman 17.
Newspapers always have encouraged readers to share their opinions. Open, frank and honest discussion encourage thought and can help to improve our communities on many levels. We're happy to provide readers with a platform where they can share their opinions with their friends and neighbors and hope you'll continue to take advantage of the opportunity to have your thoughts heard.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)