Regular readers of The Triplicate’s Opinion page know that there is another type of “regular.” As in prolific contributor.
While some people are rarely or never moved to write a letter to the editor or a longer Coastal Voices piece, there are others who always seem to have a missive in the works.
Fearful of letting the latter take over the page, the newspaper had adopted an informal policy before my arrival three years ago of publishing only one letter a month from any one individual. I must admit I have bent that rule a few times for various reasons. Sometimes an opinion prompts a critical response to which the original writer deserves a chance for an immediate counter-response. Other times, there is dearth of contributions and it makes no sense to hold back on a new letter from someone who had one published a couple of weeks earlier.
Every letter or Coastal Voices piece is a potential portal into the community psyche — and a chance to get a conversation started that we can all listen in on. While I share the concern of my predecessors that the Opinion page might be taken over by a few frequent contributors, if the prolific writers are raising new topics, making new points, a greater good is served.
Also, we allow letters of up to 400 words. While some writers push that limit, others might be moved to write only a sentence or two. Should purveyors of such brevity really be prohibited from writing again for a month?
Thirty days. That’s a long time to go without a glimpse into the mind of, say, Richard Miles. He drops off a handwritten letter every few days. (Note: If you’ve got a computer, e-mail is the
preferred form of delivery.) There’s a dozen or so other folks who contribute with great regularity.
So I’m changing the unofficial rule to a limit of one letter every two weeks, while still making an exception for the aforementioned responses to responses.
I’ll revert to 30-day rule during the run-up to local elections, when we are typically deluged with letters. And it still applies at all times to the longer Coastal Voices pieces.
Note that name, “Coastal Voices.” What sets The Triplicate’s Opinion page apart is that it’s the only place to find local viewpoints that run the philosophical gamut. While the newspaper takes its own stands in editorials, it has no problem printing the thoughts of those who disagree.
When the subject matter is local, all the better. I especially value letters praising, criticizing or simply elaborating on Triplicate news articles. Just as our front page is dominated by news of the North Coast, the priority in printing letters or Coastal Voices pieces will always go to those dealing with local topics. But if Del Norters want to opine on national or international issues, that’s okay too. To spice things up on the page, we also offer California Focus columns by Thomas Elias and out-of-town newspaper editorials of regional or statewide interest.
There are some hard-and-fast rules, and they are listed each day on this page under the heading, “We welcome your views.” For instance, we don’t print personal attacks on private citizens, poetry, religious tracts, consumer complaints and overt advertising, to name a few. We also reserve the right to edit — for brevity, and to remove material that we either know to be false or that would require our staff’s time to verify (the latter falls into the category of news tip — something we may choose to investigate, but won’t simply print as-is).
There are a lot of judgment calls when it comes to putting together the Opinion page, and I’m the one who makes them. If you disagree with one of those calls, write a letter. Share with the group.