A Drop of Ink: Rules For Letters During The Political Season

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Political letters policy

We are once again entering a political season when supporters of candidates and issues important to them will be writing us letters.

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.

Our newspaper provides a place for a civil conversation about the issues that are important to citizens, and that will inform their decisions when it is time to cast a ballot. As we consider publishing the letters we receive, we apply a few rules.

One basic rule is that we want letters from local writers with our subscribers shown preference when there are several 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 within our circulation area 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 during our regular business hours. If we cannot, the letter will not be printed. We do not publish unsigned letters.

- Letters should be no more than 350 words. State clearly and precisely your point or points.

- We will carry one letter per person per month in support of their candidate during the primary and one per person during the general election.

- All letters are subject to editing for grammar, length, civility, and libel. If we have to edit a letter, we will first give the writer a chance to make the edits. If the writer declines to see the letter edited, it will not be published.

- Don’t simply say, “Vote for Candidate Red,” or “Vote for Candidate Blue.” You should try pointing out a concrete reason for voting for the candidate. Letters that simply urge people to vote for a candidate are advertising.

- 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 verify the basis for a questionable comment. If we can’t contact you, we won’t run the letter. Our intent is to inform, not mislead; yours should be as well.

- 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.

- 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. We want letters written by individuals stating their unique opinion in their own words.

- If a letter pushes the reader to a Facebook page or a website, that information will be removed. It is advertising.

 

Candidate letters and news releases

As the campaign season gains momentum, candidates will be sending us news releases of their campaign activities. These will be treated as advertising.

We will carry letters to the editor from candidates on issues until the primary elections Aug. 9. After that, all letters from candidates will be paid advertising. If the candidate asks the reader to vote in favor of his or her candidacy, or the party they represent, then it is advertising.

We will endeavor to print a candidate profile and questionnaire for legislative and congressional races before the election, giving candidates the opportunity to state their stands on various issues.

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