Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Letters to the Editor

The newspaper is one of the great pleasures in my life. I love everything about the newspaper, the news, the size, the noise, the mess. It is all good as far as I am concerned. That is one reason why I am so concerned about the potential demise of the newspaper in print.

Reading the Letters to the Editor is one of the best things about reading the paper. I love them. You get a different perspective on issues that you would have never considered. By reading the letters you learn about issues that do not get reported any other way. But I could never- I think- write a letter to the editor.
  • People who write letters to the editor are often idiots. If you have ever read the letters to the editor you know exactly the ones I mean. These are the same people who forward email that no one wants. They are filled with quotes from obscure philosophers or talk-radio hosts. The worst ones are "religious" in nature. They remind me what a terrible Christian I am if I do not write my Congressman about the 'cause of the week.'
  • The letters to the editor are ineffectual. Because of my own response to the letters to the editor, I believe most other people read them with a grain of salt as well. Letters do not show any level of commitment or purpose. Usually they do not convince anyone of anything.
  • The letters to the editor are too reactionary. In my local paper there is a tradition of non-profit groups sending long thank-you notes to the editor. This is a good and noble gesture. But most other letters are simply reactions to something else. People express their frustrations and fears in these letters and there is very little that is positive or productive.
  • The letters to the editor tend to be too emotional. People are not really interested in how someone else feels. Oh sure, we will look at it, but it is a curiosity that does not rise above casual that causes us to pay attention.
  • Letters to the editor are dismissed by nearly everyone. We read them, but we do not take them seriously. There is one exception to this rule: People who write letters to the editor do not dismiss letters to the editor.
I will continue to read these letters. I read them in every newspaper I look at. I pay attention to magazine letters as well as comments on websites. But, the world moves too fast for me to spend too much time on them.

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