Archive » March 8, 2007
Letters to the Editor
By Timothy Lennon Buckley
(If you have something you think Montecito should know about, or wish to respond to something you read in the Journal, we want to hear from you. Please send all such correspondence to: Montecito Journal, Letters to the Editor, 1122 Coast Village Circle, Montecito, CA. 93108. You can also FAX such mail to: (805) 969-6654, or E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)
ON RESPONDING TO “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR”
Last issue (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/9/798/) a reader suggested the Journal stop publishing comments to letters. We asked readers to “help us out” and send letters of support. That request sparked a lively debate, and due to the overwhelming response for and against our policy, we have chosen a few as representative of the tempest.
You ask readers to let you know if they support your commentaries following letters to the editor. But what I think is more important is to ask readers how they feel about the practice – pro or con. I expect that most find your practice annoying.
I agree with Mr. Gallisath, J. Johnson, and others who have sent you notes of protest or criticism. I think Mr. Gallisath is on point. Your practice, which was also your predecessor’s practice, reminds me of a “spoiled little kid.” When you feel strongly about an issue, you are not loath to write an editorial about it – which you already do plenty of. That’s a general accepted prerogative of he who owns the paper.
In my view, you are abusing that prerogative by injecting your view on each and every page. Your practice makes it appear that you are selectively printing letters that can best serve the criticism that follows in your “response.”
Why not let readers have their say, period. We already know a lot about your own views.
There does not seem to be a hard and fast journalistic rule out there, but the various other publications I read do not engage in a tête-à-tête with those letter writers whose views differ from the publisher’s. If a letter offends you so much that you cannot leave it unanswered, then I’d suggest you not publish it in the first place.
(Publisher’s Note: To suggest we are abusing our prerogative by injecting our views “on each and every page” is simply untrue. Many of our writers and columnists often disagree with political positions we take, but, I, as did my predecessor (my dad) restrict comments to two sections: the Editorial and this section.
We are saddened to hear that you believe our practice of responding to letters “makes it appear that [we] are selectively printing letters…” We print virtually every letter that comes our way – except for those that malign an individual or business – and generally, responses are used to clarify an issue, answer a question, or restate a fact. Besides, what makes this section so dynamic, unlike the dead zone of “Rants to the Editor” sections of most publications, is this kind of give and take. In fact, most of the letters we receive are generated from our responses! We think of it as an old fashioned blog. – TLB)
Love Those Comments
Your comments are much enjoyed by us, and often a useful rebuttal to a one-sided or biased letter to the Journal. Also, it is interesting to hear a young resident's opinion in what is mostly a very elderly community. Keep them going, please.
Ruth and Michael Deeley
(Publisher’s Note: Thank you! Many “Letters to the Editor” are exactly that: one-sided and biased opinions; our goal is to provoke discussion and provide an opposing viewpoint. Before the Internet, newspapers were the only community forums. – TLB)
Hold your Tongue (Pen)
I must say that I agree with B. Gallisath and Jeffrey Johnson regarding your opinions following reader’s comments. I have never seen another paper where the editor responds so frequently, and with such opinion to the letters of readers. I assume it prevents a number of people with very reasonable views on important issues from writing in. Nobody wants to appear foolish but that is exactly what you have the power to do when you disagree. It may often be difficult, but I urge you to try to hold your tongue (pen) and simply respect that readers have a right to comment without being judged for their beliefs. The 'Letters to the Editor' column should not be an instrument for anyone's personal agenda. Some may agree with many of your opinions but that should be left up to us readers to decide.
Thank you for your understanding. And yes, please print this.
(Publisher’s Note: You’ve got a point about discouraging letter writers, and we sincerely do not wish to do that. Even though we comment regularly, many of our comments serve to reaffirm the letter writer’s opinion. When letters come in that are completely off-topic, say, bashing President Bush or promoting Al Gore’s global warming hysteria and are simply screeds for a certain agenda, we refuse to allow this paper to become just another outlet for that kind of mindless prattle. If it is an issue that relates to Montecito, we often let the writer have his say without comment, and we respect requests to not respond, but those are rare. – TLB)
Reserved for the Rest of Us
Although I noticed you only asked for emails in support of your comments following letters, I would like to join the many in our community that find your "getting the last word" inappropriate. Please stop this practice. It is unprofessional. And, it undoubtedly dissuades some writers who disagree with you but know their letters will be followed by occasionally snide and invariably slanted commentary. You already have ample space to get your points across; the letters page should be reserved for the rest of us. Thank you for inviting comments on this topic.
Mary Anne Weiss
Other Side of the Coin
I enjoy your comments in "Letters to the Editor" and think they should continue. It's like seeing the other side of the coin. Let's face it; many of us are pretty dogmatic.
(Publisher’s Note: We agree. Political differences should spawn discussion not hibernation! – TLB)
I too find your editorial corrections of readers' letters to the editor inappropriate. It's not found in the big newspapers or magazines unless there is a true need for clarification (like in National Geographic). Too often your rejoinders have a tone of "correction" when it's often a matter of your personal opinion.
You already fill half a page with your views that I usually, but not always, agree with. That is enough unless some technical correction is absolutely required. Please lay off the temptation to belittle your readers & consider limiting incoming letters to 300 words, long ones are just too rambling to read.
A faithful Montecito reader
(Publisher’s Note: Atlantic Monthly, Wired, and National Review are just a few publications that adhere to a similar policy as ours, but we’ll watch the tone; obviously we’ve failed somewhere along the line, as we seek to encourage, not belittle. As for limiting letters to 300 words, that’s a tough call, especially when the letter writer makes sense, but again, we’ll try to edit more judiciously. – TLB)
Something to Ponder
Please continue your editorializing after each letter. I like to hear your opinions and it makes for lively debate. It usually offers two sides of an issue and gives me something to ponder. Keep going!
(Publisher’s Note: It is especially gratifying to receive this encouragement from you, Mrs. Luria! – TLB)
Be a “Real” Paper
B. Gallisath got it exactly right. Cut the publisher's notes, they are whiny and unnecessary. Take a look at how real papers handle letters for a clue.
(Publisher’s Note: You see, this is one of those “letters” that, no matter how we respond, will seem like we are belittling the writer. But, he has already called us “whiny” and accuses us of publishing an unreal newspaper. In other words, he belittles us personally and as an organization. There is no reason to let this go without comment, and we will not! – TLB)
Keep It Up!
Many of your correspondents are economic illiterates who sorely need your corrections. These affordable housing advocates need to learn about the law of supply and demand. When one of the most beautiful places in the world sets aside a considerable amount of available land as open space, sets height limitations on buildings, and limits cluster housing, prices can only go in one direction.
Teachers, police officers, nurses, etc., simply cannot afford to live here. The best thing that can be done for them is to improve their commute by permitting Caltrans to go to three lanes on the 101.
You are doing a terrific job. The articles on the affordable housing scandals were superb. And the coverage of the outrageous mistreatment of Ty Warner was wonderful.
Name withheld upon request
In keeping with your tunnel vision about the world, I note you invite only those readers who appreciate your unique and profound comments to express their support for you. What about the long-suffering readers who are sick and tired of being force-fed your extreme political ideology? Wouldn't you be a better neighbor (and businessman) if you were more tolerant of the views of others? Your immaturity and insecurity is on painful display every week. Why not give it, and us, a break.
(Publisher’s Note: I am not sure how I fall into the category of political extremist. If believing in a free market, private property, and smaller government makes me an extremist, then I have no choice but to accept that title. With that being said, since when did people who believe in a constitutional republic (which we still are) become extremists? I would have to assume that Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, or any number of contributors to our Constitution would also be considered extremists – though they certainly were in the eyes of monarchists. To that, I can only say, Yikes! – TLB)
My husband and I thoroughly enjoy your comments in reply to readers’ statements. The comments provide (at times) not only a different point of view but most importantly they correct misinformation. Please don't stop!
Sharon and Gordon Krischer
(Publisher’s Note: Unless they come for us with pitchforks at midnight, we intend to keep it up, though we promise to only belittle the belittlers! – TLB)
Governmental Self Interest
My heartiest congratulations for your editorials on “Affordable Housing.”
This is something that rarely happens – exposing publicly government employees and elected officials who are basically criminal, only interested in furthering their own interests and keeping their jobs.
Just imagine how much of this kind of activity goes on that is never disclosed. And raising salaries, pensions, eligible dates of retirement, and who knows what, keeps up as those who make the rules dip into the trough. I am looking forward to future editorials like this.
(Publisher’s Note: There are many ways to handle this type of fraud. First off, can the “affordable housing” purchase program. Second, allow long-term “affordable” leases for policemen, firemen, teachers, etc. Low-income housing should be exactly that, but if a compromise has to be made, the purchase program should be dropped. Thirdly, prosecute those that have criminally prospered from abuse of any of these programs. – TLB)
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