There are only two people in this world that on a regular basis are written formal letters – Santa Claus and the editors of every newspaper that accepts and publishes Letters to the Editor.
For the past 18 years, the Rocky Mountain Outlook’s Vox Populi, or voice of the people, has contained those letters. But for more than a year, some who have taken the time and care to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards, may not have seen their letters published.
One of the foundations of journalism is accountability and credibility. That means when we make mistakes as journalists and editors, we hold ourselves accountable, admit the error and take effort to correct it as soon as possible.
When it comes to our letters here at the RMO, a mea culpa is needed. Twice now, the editor has been stymied from receiving these letters and publishing them. For this we accept responsibility for that mistake and hope to clear the air and address those who may have thought their letters were cast aside, or suppressed due to some bias we had.
The reality is that with two new websites set up in under a year for us to deliver journalism to the Bow Valley and beyond – the letters to the editor links have either sent those messages to junk mail folders, or they were funneled into the back end of a content management system without our knowledge.
So at the RMO, we have found ourselves in a position of realizing multiple letters sent over an extended period of time were not being received and not being published.
To those letter writers who were disappointed their time and effort to express themselves and engage in the public discourse that makes our communities richer and more engaged – we extend our apologies.
These technological glitches didn’t only affect our letters – but also any submissions to the newsroom through our current RMOToday.com website. It also created problems for those trying to fill out the Best of the Bow online entry forms.
We have, as a result, extended the deadline for Best of the Bow by another week – so you have until Sept. 20 to vote for your favourite things.
We have also tried to use this week’s Vox Populi to catchup on our letters and this editorial to perhaps take the opportunity to speak to what our standards are.
There are some dos and don’t when it comes to letter writing. First of all, the Monday noon deadline for submission and word limit of 300 words are pragmatic. Each week we need to set aside space on these pages for the letters – if we don’t know how many we have or how long they reach in length – well then don’t be surprised if it is published a week later.
Secondly, letters to the editor are a place for discourse and opinion based writing. Not for members of the community to try and write their own news stories. Quoting anonymous sources that support your opinion and presenting your opinion as fact is not appropriate.
To be shocked that a letter to the editor was edited by the editor is almost ironic.
Misinformation, false statements, personally attacking people and claims that cannot be fact checked have no place on these pages. The objective is to engage in a discussion of the issues – not to attack those you disagree with. If you see the words “in my opinion” inserted into your letter – don’t be surprised. It is your opinion that you get to have, not your own set of facts.
We noticed recently our letter submission form online gives writers the option of having their name withheld. This was a mistake.
The RMO does not publish anonymous letters. If you can’t put your name to your opinion publicly, don’t send it. We do our utmost to ensure letters are written by the person who signs it.
We hope to use this editorial to create a tabula rasa of sorts and encourage all our readers – both in print and online – to send us your letters. We want them.