The Daily Astorian editorial board announces some changes to the newspaper’s letters policy, starting today.
First, letters to the editor will be limited to 250 words, down from 350. This will allow us the space to get more letters into the newspaper, especially during high-volume times of the year such as election season.
Any letters submitted through today will be grandfathered, so to speak. We’ll run those at the length sent.
Second, all letters will be subject to greater scrutiny for tone and civility. Writers are entitled to their opinions, regardless of their political viewpoints. We welcome all points of view and encourage a robust discussion of the issues of the day. But we will not tolerate personal insults, attacks on other letter writers or hateful rhetoric.
The goal of the greater scrutiny is to elevate the discussion and encourage a forum where all of our readers feel comfortable expressing themselves in front of the community and the world.
That should not be a problem for the great majority of our letter writers. There have been a few writers, however, who have pushed the boundaries of civil discourse. Going forward, they won’t be allowed to use some of the language they’ve become accustomed to. Our policy has always been that letters are subject to editing — we will exercise that right more frequently than we have in the past. Questions about editing decisions should be directed to me.
We will print every local letter that meets our guidelines, even if we have to devote more pages. Your opinions are important to us.
The editorial board is comprised of myself, Publisher Kari Borgen, retired Publisher Steve Forrester and Chinook Observer Publisher Matt Winters.
Op-ed columns sought
We would also like to encourage local writers to submit longer opinion columns of up to 1,000 words on topics of local interest.
The bar for publication of these is set much higher than letters to the editor. They should be well-researched and written, and authors should have a well-rounded knowledge of the subject matter.
Excellent recent examples include retired teacher and park ranger Tom Wilson about the Lewis and Clark expedition and pastor Bill Van Nostran about the separation of church and state.
If you have an idea you’d like to pitch, email email@example.com. Ideally, we’d like to be able to run local columns and letters every day of the week.
You may have already noticed some different editorial cartoonists on our pages over the past couple of weeks.
We’ve contracted with a service called Cagle Cartoons to provide a more diverse stable of dozens of voices from around the country, such as Nate Beeler of the Columbus Dispatch (pictured).
We’ll continue to run cartoons from Joe Heller.
We hope you enjoy seeing some different perspectives.
Editorial page redesign
We’re experimenting with a new design for our opinion page, which allows flexibility for us to try new things and a fresh look for our readers.
Also, we will start publishing letters during the week as they come in, rather than saving them until the end of the week. They’ll generally run first-come, first-served. Letters about timely topics and events may get bumped to the head of the line.
Questions? Comments? All feedback appreciated about any of these changes. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Van Nostrand is editor of The Daily Astorian.
New letters policy
Letters should be exclusive to The Daily Astorian.
Letters should be fewer than 250 words and must include the writer’s name, address and phone number. You will be contacted to confirm authorship.
All letters are subject to editing for space, grammar, and, on occasion, factual accuracy. Only two letters per writer are allowed each month.
Letters written in response to other letter writers should address the issue at hand and, rather than mentioning the writer by name, should refer to the headline and date the letter was published. Discourse should be civil and people should be referred to in a respectful manner. Letters in poor taste will not be printed.
Send via email to email@example.com, online at dailyastorian.com/submit_letters, in person at 949 Exchange St. in Astoria or 1555 North Roosevelt in Seaside, or mail to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103.