We Welcome Political Letters, But There Are Rules

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by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

At the Swift County Monitor-News we greatly appreciate the letters to the editor we receive. They give citizens of the community a voice for their thoughts and opinions, broadening the dialogue on issues, public officials, and candidates for office.

We always see an increase in the letters we receive as we enter the last months of an election year as supporters of candidates and people promoting policies they want to see enacted write us with their views. While we welcome letters to the editor, the Swift County Monitor-News has a few rules that we apply to letters before deciding whether they will be published.

One basic rule is that we want letters from local writers, with subscribers to the Monitor-News shown preference when there are a number of letters on the same topic. We get letters from far and wide. They come from outside this region and even other states. Letters that are not local are unlikely to get printed.

Here are a few of the other guidelines we use:

 

  • All letters must be signed, with a complete address and have a phone number so we can verify authorship. It might be wise to include a “best time to call” note on the letter. We only use the writer’s name and town in the newspaper. We will try to verify authorship three times during our regular business hours. If we cannot, the letter will not be printed. We do not print unsigned letters.
  • Letters should be no more than 300 words. State clearly and precisely your point or points.
  • We will carry one letter per person in support of their candidate during the primary and one per person during the general election.
  • Don’t simply say, “Vote for Candidate Red,” or “Vote for Candidate Blue.” You should try to point to a concrete reason for voting for the candidate.
  • We simply do not accept letters that are photocopied, mass emailed, or obviously sent to every newspaper in the area. We also do not accept form letters, obviously produced and sent out by campaign committees. What we want are letters written by individuals stating their unique opinion in their own words.
  • We ask that writers know the facts of what they are writing about. Rumors and half-truths are not the stuff on which letters should be based. When we question an accusation made in a letter written about a candidate, your phone number helps us contact you to research the basis for a questionable comment. If we can’t contact you, we won’t run the letter.
  • If we receive a large number of letters saying the same thing, we reserve the right to pick a representative letter and indicate in an editor’s note that additional letters were received saying the same thing.
  • No new issues may be raised in letters two weeks prior to the election. This allows time for a person to respond to a claim made by an opponent.
  • Candidates who have been attacked in a letter for a position or action will be allowed to respond.
  • Letters to the editor provide readers with the chance to say how they feel about a candidate and the party that the candidate represents. We encourage our readers to write. The best editorial page is one on which our readers provide a wide variety of views.

Candidate news releases

As the campaign season gains momentum, candidates will be sending us news releases of their campaign activities as well as guest editorial pieces.  For the most part, we do not print these self-promotional letters. Promotion of points of view and candidacy are considered advertising.

We will be printing a candidate profile and questionnaire prior to the election giving candidates the opportunity to state their stands on a variety of issues. We will also be covering any local candidate debates as well as some candidate visits to the community.
 

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