Mon, Jan

Speak to those in power with opinion letters


With the start of the new year, we are encouraging our readers to send us letters.

We will have a new president and Congress later this week. There are new members of local municipal councils.

We have a new Yavapai County District 3 supervisor for the first time in 20 years and yet another new Yavapai College board member for District 3.

We have a new Democratic congressman in District 1, Tom O’Halleran, who previously served Sedona and the Verde Valley as a Republican in the Arizona State Legislature.

While our representatives in the legislature remain unchanged from the last election cycle, they too will need to hear from constituents about how their decisions help or harm our community and our state.

The rules for our letters to the editor are relatively simple:

  • Letters must be 300 words or less. If letters are a little bit over, we’ll cut them to fit, but if letters are more than 400 words or so, we’ll ask the authors to cut them and resubmit. We’d rather have the authors determine which points they want to make rather than guess.
  • If your letter covers several topics and runs 600 words, send in two letters addressing each topic. The more timely letter will run first and the second will run a few weeks later.
  • No personal attacks. Letters can address points made in other letters, but cannot attack the author’s character or person nor allege criminal behavior, which is libelous. Defamation, slander and libel are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Elected officials are public figures and the rules are looser because they operate in the public rather than private sphere. But remember that ranting against a politician doesn’t win readers to your side like a logical analysis about his or her behavior does.

In the wake of this year’s presidential election, some have letters we’ve received blatantly attack other authors, not just the candidates they represent.
Keep your letter on topic: On elected officials, their policies or the actions, not on the authors with whom you disagree. Newspaper opinion letters should address the issues, not repeat the nastiness one reads in the comments section of blogs.

You can certainly address issues presented in previous letters, but direct your commentary on the letter’s content, not the author.

  • Letters must include the author’s name, street address and phone number, in case we have a question and to property include the author’s name and hometown at the end of the letter. No anonymous letters will be published, under any circumstances. Period. Those go right into the recycle bin and our readers don’t read your views. If you spend the time writing to us, have the courage to put your name on the letter.
  • Guest perspectives are reserved for elected officials and experts in the field the letter covers. Guest perspectives are also reserved for people representing a government agency or organization making a official statement.
  • Letters citing facts must have supporting documents. If you include statistics, attach the document or website link to it so we can double check your numbers. Likewise, if you quote someone, attach the document, email, website screenshot or website link so we can verify the quote you include. I have a stack of highlighted meeting minutes and underlined emails from those authors to prove supplying us with these documents are relatively easy.
  • Letters stating just opinions with no numbers, however, don’t need any documents.
  • You can send your letters to me via email to editor@larsonnewspapers.com.

All elected officials need close scrutiny of their actions and one of the best ways to convey your opinion is through the public forum of a newspaper opinion page. While one letter may not change presidential or congressional policy, letters about more local issues do change local officials’ minds as good public servants read newspapers in their constituencies to gather feelings from the public. Make yours heard.

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