It’s was nine o’clock when I first stepped into the Triplicate break room almost two years ago.
It’s always nine o’clock in there. Because newspaper folks being the overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated lot they are, it’s not likely any of us could afford the time — or the cost — of changing the battery.
I’m OK with that. It’s admittedly a little strange. But after a beleaguering day of playing editor, I find it reassuring that I can step into a room for a few moments where time is always at a standstill. Or as one of our many gifted newsroom staffers says, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Two years. Not much in the scheme of things but it has certainly been a learning experience.
While in this retrospective mood, I thought I might share some letters that have crossed the editor’s desk. I like to call them Love Letters to the Editor. Some have been published, others not because they were either unsigned or the writer asked not to be identified. Here we go.
There seems to be some confusion about my political leanings. A sampling:
“You are so far left of America I can only read the ads, obits and local news. What a shame.”
“The enclosed subscription payment is made begrudgingly because of the editor’s choice to have made our local newspaper into a liberal slanted publication.”
Then there’s this: “As part of an increasing slide toward the ultra-conservative in the Triplicate since its takeover by (the) current editor…”
That last letter intended to be critical of conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. The author goes on to say, “Writing like Thomas’ is pretty typical for the paper these days. How about it? Where is the ‘all sides’ view?”
Well, there is Leonard Pitts, a liberal leaning, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist we also publish on the Opinion page. Trying — apparently in vain — to present that “all sides’ view.”
“I am tired of Leonard Pitts,” says this writer. “His column today entitled ‘I am tired of Donald Trump’ inspired me to write this letter to the editor. I have been meaning to do so ever since Robin Fornoff has insisted on printing Pitts’ garbage. However, I sort of figured we will have to put up with Leonard Pitts as long as we put up with Editor Robin Fornoff.”
Moving right along. There was lots of objection to our decision to follow what is considered an almost universal newspaper standard. I limited Letters to the Editor to 300 words and one every 30 days.
Again, only a sampling: “I would like to add my voice to those of my neighbors and fellow readers of the Triplicate who are not happy with the new word limit and frequency of letters policy instituted by Editor Robin Fornoff.”
Another on the same subject: “As to the 300 word limit, that does not really bother me very much. I can usually make my point in less than 300 words (but I haven’t counted words in this yet). Some people, and some subjects require a few more. I think 400 would be a nice fair amount. I can understand a word limit for letters. We don’t want letter writers to be like the professional columnists, that we see so much of on the Opinion page now, that babble on for several hundred words while saying very little.”
And this one: “There is apparently little else newsworthy affecting our community to report on to us readers of the Trip as evidenced by your begging for letters to Santa in the absence of all other letters which appear to be drying up.”
Regarding the latter letter, we repeatedly published what’s called a house advertisement, soliciting Letters to Santa in the days leading up to last Christmas. I did this because some while back, before my “takeover,” the Triplicate stopped publishing such letters.
We received way more letters from children than we could possibly publish. We wound up selecting some of the more amusing or heartfelt letters and published those in the B Section.
This year I’m pushing for a special edition of nothing but Letters to Santa. Even more fodder for the Grinch who penned that last missive.
Finally, there are the who do you think you are writers. This is one of my favorites, written in response to an editorial criticizing the Del Norte Healthcare District board:
“You have a lot of gall to come into our community and attack an elected body who is doing everything they can to make sure we have quality, affordable health care...When (Sutter Coast CEO) Mitch Hanna, (then-healthcare board member) Clarke Moore and you, Mr. Fornoff, leave town the stink will be gone.”
Trust me, there have been days I’ve thought about it. It’s times like those I’ve learned to take a deep breath or two and go for that short walk down the hall.
Because it’s always nine o’clock in the Triplicate break room.
Robin Fornoff is editor of the Del Norte Triplicate. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.