A time for true confessions: I read the newspaper regularly, one each morning and two on Sunday. I also get my news from TV news (no propaganda), the Internet (no opinionated talking heads), a news magazine, and radio (no talk shows).
All of these options provide news coverage on a broader level.
However, one feature of interest to the community is “Letters to the Editor”.
I have to admit, I look at the name of the writer first to determine if the person is fit to write something different from the “frequent filers” whose story never changes.
My curiosity took me back in time to other “Letter to the Editor” possibilities.
Suppose Moses, after publishing the two tablets, receives these letters to the editor.
“Dear Editor (Moses): Having checked your recent post, I think it’s rather limiting. Especially #6, I think it won’t sit well with politicians. Think about it. Jumiah.
And this one: “Dear editor: where are you coming from with this thing? Do you know what #8 will do to all anglers? This will challenge all future big fish stories. Frankly, a lot of us were doing just fine without that review. Absolutely.
Then, millennia later, one of America’s most renowned journalists, Benjamin Franklin, began working for his brother James, who founded the New England Courant, America’s second newspaper (the first was the Boston Newsletter ).
Ben’s duties included typing letters for printing and selling newspapers door to door. However, what he really wanted to do was write (I sympathize).
So one day he had a clever (sneaky) idea. He wrote an anonymous letter under the pseudonym of Silence Dogood. Silence (in Ben’s mind) was the widow of a country minister, “an enemy of vice and a friend of virtue” (a tricky combination in today’s world).
James was apparently easily duped and printed 14 Dogood letters from April to October 1722. These were simpler times with no “verification” of letter writers to the editor.
Well, Ben gained experience in printing and press over the next seven years, and in 1729 he bought The Pennsylvania Gazette. He improved his appearance with better types, news and articles and his number of subscribers grew exponentially. The distinction that made his article stand out was the publication of essays and letters to the readers (some of which he wrote himself under pseudonyms).
Let’s look at a possibility from an irritated reader: “Dear editor, what the fuck is this about promoting turkeys for our national bird? I don’t care if eagles eat carrion. Have you ever compared the appearance of a turkey to that of an eagle? Uh. It’s time for you to go out more. Sincerely, Orin Theologist”
Or for a second, “Dear Editor, don’t you know enough to come out of the rain? If children find out what you do, they could be seriously hurt. Think more about your readers and less to your wine cellar. Respectfully, Mom Lisa”
That brings us to 2022. Letters to the editor are common not only for newspapers, but now appear in other periodicals such as technical and entertainment journals as well as radio and television networks when they are occasionally read on the air.
The evolution has been interesting. From anonymous diatribes or written under a pseudonym, most newspapers, magazines, etc. officials are now verifying the validity of the author – no more Dogood silence.
The most common topics in letters today are:
- Support or oppose a position taken by the newspaper in its editorial pages or respond to another author’s letter;
- Comment on a topical issue under consideration by a governing body (city council?);
- Comment on a report or an article published in a previous edition;
- And correct a perceived error or misrepresentation.
Letters to the editor appear most often on opinion pages.
Opinion pieces (opinion editor) are usually much longer than letters and deal with specific issues.
Curiously, many more men than women write to the editor. It’s not that men know more; it’s probably that they think they know more and are willing to share their knowledge (or ignorance).
So the message is to read your local newspaper and letters from residents with a grain of salt (perhaps on the edge of a margarita) but do so with the knowledge of someone who is also knowledgeable about the facts.