The letters to the editor are one of the best-read items on the Viewpoint page. Opinions are interesting, especially when the writers are local community members.

So what are we looking for in letters to the editor, and why do some letters not make it in print?

The Courier sees the Viewpoint page as a forum for public issues — issues that affect the people as a whole or the community at large. The intent is to encourage public discussion and debate. We are looking for civil, well written opinions from any and all sides of the political spectrum. Poorly written letters that are incomprehensible and letters that have nothing in particular to say are not published. No libelous statements and no racist comments will be published.

Religious issues are frequently connected to public issues — as with abortion or prayer in schools. We welcome letters dealing with such issues, but caution writers to avoid preaching or challenging others’ interpretation of scripture. Nobody can win a debate on the meaning of scripture.

Some letters have a connection to a public issue, but their main thrust is personal. Those letters may not be printed. As an example, a letter complaining about the reader’s house being robbed probably won’t be published. But if the writer connects the robbery to a larger crime problem in the community (or social issue), then the letter may be published.

Letters calling attention to or praising a person, group or event will be considered and thank you letters may be published for the greater good of the community.

We normally do not publish letters calling for boycotts on businesses, or attacking a particular business except when the issue pertains to a larger social issue. Complaints about bad service or dealings with a business or public agency will not be published if they are considered to be personal.

Letters to the editor are published as a service to our readers, and thus we mainly publish letters from readers who live in our circulation area. Form letters that are part of a mass mailing are routinely rejected.

In the interest of broadening public debate, we usually will run just one letter form the same writer within a two-week period, except as rebuttal to another letter.

If you’ve followed the above guidelines and you still haven’t seen your letter in the newspaper, it could be because you’ve not included your first and last name, full address and telephone number. We won’t publish the address and phone number, but we need them for verification. Or your letter could be held up because it is too long — we have a 350-word limit — though we normally attempt to contact such writers and ask them to shorten it. Or perhaps you’ve requested that your name be withheld. We think it’s unfair to publish anonymous letters.

We will not publish all letters, but we make an honest attempt to print as many letters as possible. People who have questions about letters to the editor should contact managing editor Scott Scherf 419-427-8423 or Send an E-mail to scottscherf.

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