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Letters - Guidelines

 

The Skagit Valley Herald encourages community engagement, and we depend on letter writers to keep the conversation going. We do have criteria, however, that guide our decisions concerning content.

Our goal is to publish as many local opinions as possible, and we do publish most letters we receive, both in print and online. However, a newspaper is a private business and can reject submissions for any reason.

We prefer letters that speak to issues currently in the news and addressed by our newspaper. Generalized opinions, especially those that take on never-ending debates, are discouraged unless they pertain to a current news situation.

Finally, we reserve the right to agree to disagree on what is acceptable and not acceptable for publication. Often, it is simply a judgment call, and that judgment is the responsibility of the editor.  We offer these guidelines as a starting point:

 

We offer several types of OPINION content:

 

LETTERS: We encourage local readers to write letters (300 words max) about issues affecting our community. Letters about local issues get priority.  See the Question & Answer section below for more detailed guidelines.

Thanks letters, which run outside the Opinion section, are meant to offer community organizations a chance to express gratitude for services, funding and efforts by the public or groups of community members that go above and beyond what might be considered standard, such as efforts made to put on a large event or special fundraising effort.  The goal is not so much to list individuals as much as it is to acknowledge overall effort. We ask that these be limited to 200 words and that one person sign the letter on behalf of the organization.

 

GUEST COLUMNS: We occasionally accept a guest column from readers who are writing about a specific topic of local interest (not national issues).  Generally, it is a topic for which the writer has some close affiliation, such as a former game warden writing a perspective on the abundance of elk residing on the valley floor. However, it could just be an interesting perspective on a local issue. We do not offer columns for “hot topics” that are the frequent subject of letter writers, and we do not offer that space for advocacy groups. We do try to run a headshot with columns.

 

VOICES OF THE VALLEY: This column is offered to leaders in the community who can speak to larger and specific issues in the valley with some authority. It is not given to public officials, but is available to non-elected agency heads, leaders of organizations, etc… It is not offered as a place to break news or make public announcements, but to help clarify an issue that is already in the news. It will not be offered as a place for comment in lieu of answering reporter questions, and it will not be used as a place to rebut news coverage. We run a headshot with these columns.

 

THE PODIUM: This is a new column created for occasional use by public officials. It will not be used to rally for a political cause or for personal political gain, but may be used occasionally to offer additional information about a topic in the news. Again, it is not offered as a place to break news or make public announcements, but to help clarify issues. It will not be offered as a place for comment in lieu of answering reporter questions, and it will not be used as a place to rebut news coverage. We run a headshot with these columns.

 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

What's the best way to submit a letter?

We have a Submit Letter button on goskagit.com under the Opinion tab.

Or send email to:  letters@skagitpublishing.com

 

What information should a letter include?

First and last name

Address

Phone number

* We will print only your name and town of residence.

 

What kind of content is not published?

• Libel that could get you and us sued.

• Opinions that denounce a race or sexual orientation.

• Opinions that support hate or violence.

• Hearsay, as in comments about what other people say or believe, if it has not been previously reported or printed.

• Letters that try to report news. That page is for opinion, not reporting.

• Opinions that address religion must not evangelize (preach), and we discourage letters that are critical of religion simply because the writer disagrees. However, we realize that there are topics in the news that overlap with elements of religion, and we do allow commentary as it relates to impact on the public.

• Form letters and letters signed by more than one author or a group. We want original writings and opinions from individual local readers.

• Criticisms of a business, agency, person or employee won't be published. We do not verify these incidents and believe they should be addressed between a customer and business or agency.

• We also edit for civility. Rude, mean-spirited letters will not be published. Our goal is to encourage conversation, not fuel animosity. Respect is expected.

• Letters that rehash arguments made multiple times on ongoing issues but without a new news angle. Please mention the latest news angle that leads you to bring up the topic again. The Opinion page is not an advocacy platform; it is meant as a place to respond to the latest news events, preferably those published in this newspaper.

 

What happens if you question the facts or statements presented in a letter?

We do not fact-check letters, but if something appears obviously questionable to us, we may attempt to verify it or ask the writer to provide their source. After that time, we determine if the letter should be published.

 

Can anyone write a letter?

Yes, anyone may write to the editor. However, we generally only publish letters from readers in our coverage area. Letters from children will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If the writer is a public official or works in some public capacity, that title may be included with the letter, even if they are not speaking in their official capacity.

 

What happens when you reject a letter based on content?

We try to work with letter writers and let them know if they have written something that does not meet our criteria. But that is not always possible. Please feel free to check with us if you have not heard anything within a couple of weeks.

 

Who chooses letters and other opinion pieces to be published?

The editor and the staff that assists in producing the Opinion page hold that responsibility. However, the pieces that appear there are meant to cover a range and variety of opinions and are not the position of the newspaper unless the names of the publisher and editor appear at the bottom of the piece.

 

Additional questions?

Call 360-416-2160



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