At your ser­vice

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

In Syd­ney, a reader is ques­tion­ing whether a head­line re­lated to an on­line poll con­ducted by the Post was misleading. In St. John’s, a neo­phyte union leader is la­ment­ing that his let­ter chastis­ing a news­pa­per colum­nist didn’t get the promi­nence he thought it should.

In Char­lot­te­town, a bar owner is light­ing up so­cial me­dia with her com­plaints about news­pa­per cov­er­age in that city, while peo­ple on her news­feed sug­gest she should write the news­pa­per to out­line her con­cerns. Just another day in the news­pa­per busi­ness. But some­thing else as well: a recog­ni­tion of the value of a fea­ture unique to news­pa­pers and their dig­i­tal web­sites. Un­like many other me­dia sites, news­pa­pers have al­ways had a space for peo­ple to re­spond; a place where you can put your opin­ions on our pages. It’s simple, cheap and fast: have a look at the news­pa­per’s guide­lines for letters to the ed­i­tor, and you can have free and prompt ac­cess to all the read­ers we have.

Some peo­ple might think that we don’t like letters to the ed­i­tor – well, they’d be wrong. Cer­tainly, any let­ter that ques­tions the skill and com­pe­tence of re­porters or ed­i­tors can sting. But the value of back-and-forth dis­cus­sion of is­sues clearly out­weighs that sting.

Be­sides, there is a par­tic­u­lar sym­me­try in be­ing able to present your con­cerns about a me­dia ar­ti­cle in the same place that the orig­i­nal and of­fend­ing ar­ti­cle ap­peared. Your con­cern is put in front of the same eyes, and reaches the same peo­ple who read the orig­i­nal piece.

A good let­ter – pithy, funny and well-writ­ten – brings a smile to the faces of edi­to­rial page ed­i­tors ev­ery­where. The ed­i­tors who choose which letters to run are al­ready peo­ple who love words, who love a good, cleanly made ar­gu­ment, who love the nec­es­sary de­bate that goes into truly pub­lic-made pub­lic pol­icy.

The other thing that edi­to­rial page ed­i­tors love more than any­thing else? A cleanly writ­ten let­ter that can get into the pa­per with the least amount of edit­ing pos­si­ble. Why? Be­cause ed­i­tors are hu­man, too; they’re not part of a ne­far­i­ous sys­tem de­signed to twist and cen­sor let­ter-writ­ers’ opin­ions.

No, the ed­i­tors are just nor­mal peo­ple who like to get their jobs done well, have some­thing in­ter­est­ing and new to present to read­ers, and still be home in time for din­ner.

Letters will al­ways have to be edited. We work on spell­ing and gram­mar, watch for lan­guage us­age that is pe­jo­ra­tive enough that it could be grounds for a li­bel ac­tion, and do our best to make sure that your ar­gu­ment is clearly pre­sented. (Some­times, though, if an is­sue has been chewed so much that a let­ter will be repet­i­tive, we might move on to newer, fresher top­ics.)

Think of it this way: a let­ter to the ed­i­tor is a ser­vice no one else of­fers. Free and prom­i­nent space in the pa­per, free edit­ing ser­vices, free head­line-writ­ing.

Our gift to you.

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