What newspapers do and how we do it should not be a mystery.
Mostly due to our poor efforts to explain and/or publish guidelines, it remains just that for some readers.
Like each community it serves, each newspaper is unique in its guidelines. The Sun chain of newspapers, for example, allows for an editor to publish a comment under a letter to the editor. That won’t happen in any newspaper where I’m editor — in my view we have enough space to make our points and the space we allot for letters to the editor belongs to our readers. If there needs to be some kind of explanation or some kind of reference material cited for your letter, we will ask you to do it the body of your submission.
I sign my editorials, which is not a normal practice in this industry. Editorials are the newspaper’s voice (hence the royal ‘we’ in our editorials), but there is usually only one writer. I figure since we ask the letter writers for their names, so I should not hide behind a veil of anonymity.
Those are just a couple of insights, things we don’t do a good enough job sharing with our valued readers. What I hope to do today with this column is provide some information to help readers understand how we make decisions and how to improve the chance of getting your information published, because we truly rely on your submissions.
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to call (259-905-0019) or e-mail (email@example.com) me directly. I’m generally off Fridays and Saturdays.
• If you would like to send a story, photo or letter to the editor, please do it by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). The days of typesetters are long gone in newspapers, so handwritten or faxed or typed material sits on my desk for a long time as I wait for the Typesetter Fairy to enter it into our system.
• If you are just sending text, paste it into the window you are sending. There shall be no attachments when there is no need for attachments, please.
• If you are sending a photo, it needs to be at least five inches by seven inches at 300 dpi. If you don’t know what that means or how to do it, please ask someone who does. The original from most cameras almost always works. Include in text who took the photo, who is in the photo and what the photo is all about. And some contact info, please.
• If you are sending a letter to the editor, please include your full name (Tyrone Smith instead of T. Smith, for example), the community in which you live, and a daytime phone number for confirmation purposes. And did I already mention something about attachments when it’s only text?
• Also, with letters to the editor, please try to keep in mind that brevity is next to godliness. Try to keep it to fewer than 400 words. Also, if I have any inkling the letter may cause either or both of us legal problems, I will likely send it back to you for a revision. I’ve been doing this newspaper thing for decades and my Spidey-sense on these things is pretty good.
• Try to send your information to the proper staff member (for example: Lissa Alexander for arts info, Tyson Taylor for sports, etc.). You can find their names and e-mail addresses in the newspaper. If you can’t find the address you’re looking for, send it to me, email@example.com.
• There are some story ideas and letter-to-the-editor subjects we’re just not interested in pursuing or publishing. Again, these types of decisions are not uniform across the industry, but I have some fairly clear guidelines. For example, I’m not interested in letters to the editor that complain about businesses. If we publish one we should publish them all, and I fear if I did that our great letters pages would digress into letter after letter about bad service and cold steaks.
• In the same vein are stories and letters where an employee(s) is complaining about an employer(s), or vice versa. We’ll pass. Same goes for third-party disputes. We had a restaurant owner in here once trying to get us to do a story about how his landlord had not fulfilled his part of the bargain on renovations or something like that. No thanks.
That’s all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope it was helpful.
John Harding is the editor of The Parksville Qualicum Beach News. E-mail: