Last week I talked a little bit about why some items appear in the paper more quickly than others.
I mentioned that letters to the editor were a whole other kettle of fish. And they are, so I figured I’d address that subject this week.
Last week’s question was “why isn’t my item in the paper?” This week’s is a variation on the theme, “why isn’t my letter in the paper?”
Letters are a little different because they are written by you, the readers, not by staff here at the paper. Whereas with news and community stories I have to prioritize things by making a judgement that sometimes includes a decision about their relative importance, I rarely consider that when looking at letters. One person’s letter is equally important to another’s. Subjects of all descriptions are equally of interest, be it a thank you for finding a lost item or even saving a life, or commentary on a news story of the day.
Which isn’t to say that subject matter is always inconsequential. Sometimes we get a great number of letters on a particular topic, such as happened with the referendum on amalgamation of Duncan and North Cowichan. Particularly as the vote neared we got a lot of letters from people wanting to have their say. There was an added urgency because they would no longer be printable after the date of the referendum. So I worked hard to get as many as possible in. Some still did not make it. The ones that didn’t were long — longer than what we ask people to keep their letters to, which is about 300 words.
Which brings me to my next consideration when looking at letters: space. There is limited space in any given print edition. Normally, I do my best to get letters in on a variety of subjects, so we don’t bore readers who may not care about a particular issue. So if you’re looking to give yourself the best chance of being published in our hard copy, don’t send a novel.
I also try to get in a variety of voices, so not always the same three prolific letter writers (though we love you guys — don’t stop writing). We want voices from throughout the community, not just the loudest.
I’ve worked at other publications where they struggled to get enough letters to the editor to fill their letters section. We’re so lucky to have such a great readership here who want to write to us. I hope you won’t be discouraged if your letter doesn’t make it into our print edition. Know that it’s not a commentary on the quality, we just didn’t have the column inches.
With the development of our online presence it has made things a lot better in that we can now publish all of the letters fit to print on our website (www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com), so even if it’s not on the newstand, your letter isn’t just stuck in our files.
Write on, Cowichan.