When we can fill our paper with readers’ opinions, we know we’re doing good work and we have readers who are concerned about their community and want to use our Page 4A as a forum to express their ideas to the rest of Sedona and the Verde Valley.
We run letters from all sides of the political spectrum and letters that disagree with my editorials or public officials’ statements. Letters discussing a local issue or addressing a national issue in a local context take priority over letters solely addressing national issues.
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, consider breaking it up and sending 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.
You can certainly address previous letters, but direct your commentary on the letter’s content, not the author.
Elected officials are not “private citizens” but rather “public figures” in their official capacity, so the rules are looser because they operate in the public rather than private sphere. When people criticize “Councilman XXX,” they are in fact criticizing “the chair” not “the person.”
That being said, remember that ranting against a politician doesn’t win readers to your side of an argument like a logical analysis about his or her behavior does.
Letters must include the author’s name, street address and phone number, in case we have a question, and so we can properly include the author’s name and hometown at the end of the letter.
No anonymous letters have been nor ever will be published in our newspapers. Don’t even bother sending them in; they go right into the recycle bin. Our staff don’t read them, nor will our readers.
Additionally, if you call or email us news tips, don’t do so “anonymously.” We journalists need to know who you are so we can determine if your material is valid. We can’t act if tipsters don’t tell us who they are so we can verifty that the tip they provide is real or just rumor, gossip or an attempt to discredit someone they don’t like.
Readers never need to know where we got tips or leaked documents — reporters are notoriously tip-lipped and sometimes go to jail rather than reveal the names of sources, so we can be trusted to protect your identity, if necessary.
If you spend the time writing to us, have the courage to put your name, address, phone number and email address on the letter so we can contact you if we have questions or need clarification.
Don’t think we won’t run a letter because it criticizes one of our stories or opposes one of my editorials. We publish letters disagreeing with our stances all the time and have no problem running them. Page 4A is a forum for opinions, including those that contradict ours.
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. If you found it, then you can help us and streamline the fact-checking process.
Letters stating just opinions with no numbers, however, don’t need any documents.
If you email them, please do so as a plain text email or a document attachment rather than a scanned handwritten letter so we can copy and paste it instead of retyping it.
Christopher Fox Graham