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Thoughts are appreciated

Residents of the Tri-State Area have never been afraid to make their views known.

That’s one of the great constants.

Whether the topic is religion, sports, local government, education or politics (national, local, it doesn’t matter,) we always know where we stand with one another.

The forum doesn’t really matter — whether it’s over lunch, over the phone, during a casual meeting, during a formal meeting, during a testy meeting, in a tweet, in a Facebook post or just in causal, day-to-day conversation, we’re always willing to share our thoughts.

And that can be a good thing — all of those conversations can open discussion and help us understand the points of view of others. We might not always agree with or understand where another person is coming from, but at least we’re willing to listen, and question. And, at the end of the day, it’s possible that even if no minds have been changed, we will at least still walk away friends.

A time-honored way of making your opinions known has been by writing a letter to the editor. Once again this year, area residents have taken advantage of that forum in a big way. The one letter you can read on Page 5A of today’s edition will be the last we publish in 2020, and it brings our total for the year to 332.

Add in the 69 guest columns we have published, and you can see that our readers have not been shy about sharing their opinions with others.

The topics are varied — some are simple thank-yous to the community for supporting an event. Others question the actions of elected officials and other ask that problems be addressed.

Many are political in nature — and officials from all parties can be fair game. That is especially true during election season — some letters back a particular candidate and some offer reasons not to vote for someone. Some are from the candidates themselves, as they make a personal appeal to voters or thank voters for their support.

That was the case this year, as our biggest weeks for letter submissions surrounded the fall general election. On Oct. 9, for example, we ran five letters and on Oct. 11 we ran 15 letters, giving us 20 letters for the week, which was the greatest number we had during the year. Oct. 23 saw four letters, and Oct. 25 saw 14 letters, which gave us 18 for that week. Not far behind was the weekend of Oct. 2 — three letters — and Oct. 4 — 13 letters, which totaled 16.

We also published 12 letters on Sept. 27 and 10 letters on Feb. 2.

Nine letters were published four times — April 12, May 17, June 21 and Nov. 15.

We published two letters five times — on Jan. 19, March 22, April 26, May 24 and Nov. 22. This week’s single letter represents the lowest number we received in any one week this year.

Letters usually run in our Sunday edition, but when we get more than we can accommodate in one day, they also run on a Friday.

We try to make it as easy a possible to get your letter published, and we have just a few simple guidelines.

Each submission must include the town where a writer lives and a telephone number where we can reach him or her. Those numbers will never be published or shared with anyone else — they are used for confirmation purposes and to allow a quick way to have any questions about the letter answered. We do not accept anonymous letters or letters with multiple signatures.

We limit individual writers to one submission every four weeks — with very few exceptions. Letters that are attacks on individuals and businesses are not allowed, and neither are unsigned letters or submissions that are libelous or slanderous.

While we respect all opinions, writers need to understand there are some readers who will disagree with their opinions, and they are allowed to respond. Responses to responses, however, are not permitted.

There is a 500-word limit on the length of letters. I know — that can be tough to adhere to, but it can be done. We reserve the right to reject or edit any submission, so if you say that there is no way you can cut your 739-word letter down to 500 words, we just will not be able to publish it. Length, by the way, is the most common reason for us to reject a letter.

Letters will be accepted in just about any format — handwritten, typewritten or electronically. Remember — all word-processing programs can give you the word count of any document, and that comes in handy when you have a 500-word limit.

Generally, the deadline for letters to be included any particular week is noon on Thursday. That can change around holidays. There always is a specific cut-off date before an election, and that will be published many times and well in advance of an election.

Some readers believe we won’t accept letters that are critical of certain public officials or politicians. It’s not true — as long as a submission meets our guidelines, it will be published. If we reject a letter for any reason, we contact the writer and tell her or him why. We are not able to help a reader write a letter, but we are willing to work with the writer and explain what is needed to make the letter eligible.

Letters to the editor contribute to the open discussion that makes our society work, and are a great way to make sure your voice is heard.

We will continue to offer that forum to our readers in 2021 and beyond — and we hope you’ll continue to take advantage of the opportunity.

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

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