Our policy is that we don’t print unsigned letters.
There are some who still send them in and wonder why we won’t publish them. Allow me to explain.
Ever been on the comments section of an internet site that allows people to post anonymously?
In a nutshell, that’s why.
Things become uncivilized really quickly when people don’t have to stand behind the things they say.
It’s far too easy to lob insults and false accusations from the comfort of “anonymous”.
It’s sort of the old adage of not saying anything behind someone’s back you wouldn’t be willing to say to their face.
The people that letter writers are speaking about, after all, have put themselves and their names and often their faces out there with their opinions. The writers who wish to comment must be held to the same standard.
Think about it, if you won’t say it with your name underneath it, maybe you shouldn’t be saying anything at all.
We give folks a lot of leeway, accepting first initials and a last name. We’ll accept a maiden name. In short, anything, as long as it’s legally you.
Because I’ve always believed that policy is a guideline, and I’ve never been a fan of “zero-tolerance” (you might say I have zero tolerance for it) as it removes the humanity and reliance on good judgment from any process (things that thwart the descent into the absurd; Catch-22 anyone?) more often than not, I break the anonymous letter rule very, very, very occasionally.
But the reason to do so needs to be really compelling. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a letter meet my criteria.
I’ll do it if the subject is important enough, but would put the letter writer in physical danger or would expose them to unnecessary humiliation or harassment.
For example, I ran a letter a number of years ago from a person who spoke about the problem of shoplifting from the first person point of view of a compulsive shoplifter.
In many such cases, however, we’ll seek to write a story (protecting the name of the source) rather than corral it into our letters section. In most cases the subject matter calls for it.
Letters are one of my favourite parts of the paper. This is where we find out what other people we live side-by-side with think.
For the everyday letter writer my message is: don’t be afraid. If you’re feeling strongly enough about something to consider writing a letter, you’re probably not the only one. Stand proudly behind your thoughts. You likely represent a lot more people than you think.