Our Opinion:A limit is observed

Friday, June 16, 2006

We like locally written letters to the editor. We consider our editorial page an open forum for area residents, with some limitations.

One of the few limitations we place on letters to the editor is a restriction on the number of words, a 750 word maximum. This is far higher maximum than other newspapers have on letters to the editor. A 300 word limit is typical.

Since we've allowed a rather generous upper limit, we feel that we should observe that limit strictly. Most letters fall well under 750 words, but we occasionally get one that is longer than that.

A letter received from Dan Seliger of Cherokee originally had 788 words. We edited it down to under the 750 word limit (printed in this edition on this page). We believe the changes do not substantially alter the meaning or tone of the letter.

In cases in which a letter needs substantial editing for length and this requires judgment calls about what can be removed or modified, we will likely just not print the letter.

There are other causes for not printing a letter. We get large numbers of letters through email, regular mail or fax that are mass mailings from non-local people about non local issues. We don't print those.

We don't print letters that are responses to something printed in another newspaper (we got quite a bit of flak about this once last year).

We don't print incoherent or obscene letters. This is rare. We haven't received anything like that for years.

We don't print anonymous letters. We do get these occasionally.

We don't print libelous letters. This doesn't mean we don't print letters that contain criticism of individuals. By libelous, we mean an allegation of a specific criminal or immoral act that is not a matter of public record nor provable by the person making the allegation.

The issue of potential libel in a letter is rare. Actually, any disqualifying factor in a locally written letter is rare.

We don't mean to sound like we're picking on you, Mr. Seliger. Your writing is colorful and articulate. Please, just make it a bit shorter in the future.