With a new political season on the horizon, and for other reasons, this is prime time to review the letters to the editor policy of the Hood River News.
At the end of 2011, we made a few adjustments to the policy, including making the policy shorter, a sort of example-setting. Since Jan. 1, we have been stringent in holding letters to (or hovering very near) that 350-word limit.
The policy reads as follows:
"Hood River News reminds letter to the editor writers that shorter is better. Concise letters are not only better-read, they are more likely to be published because limited space is available.
Almost any point can be made in 350 words or fewer, so this is set as an upper level for length.
Thank-you letters are no longer accepted, neither are unsigned letters, letters signed with fictitious signatures and copies of letters sent to public officials.
We limit letters on a subject when we feel it has been thoroughly aired, to the point of letters becoming repetitive.
Also rejected are letters that are libelous, in bad taste or personal attacks on individuals or private businesses. Writers must include addresses and telephone numbers. These are for identification purposes only, and will not be published."
Without further ado, let us stress that the prerequisites on brevity and authorship are critical points. All letters must have a verifiable name attached and no letter is published without the writer's name.
Letters to the editor are an important part of this newspaper's efforts to provide a community forum. There's a reason we head them "Our Readers Write." It's a shared experience.
Returning to the mention of the upcoming election, here is the important point: We reserve the right to winnow out letters that have clearly been stamped from the same template. Coordinated letter-writing campaigns do go on, and we respect that is part of the election process.
However, the most effective letters are those that are original and individual to the writer. Tell your fellow readers specifically why it is you vouch for your preferred candidate. Make it read as if you are the first to speak up for that person.
Political or otherwise, thank you to all put energy into sharing their views in writing. It is a time-honored tradition we are proud to continue.