Election policy adjusted

By From page A4 | September 23, 2013

For probably 20 years we have printed electioneering letters only on Wednesdays. The general theory was that it would cut down on what one longtime member of the Board of Supervisors once called “free advertising” when meeting with his campaign committee.

Naturally, we hoped it would generate some pressure on the candidates to make up for the limited letters space by buying more ads in the Mountain Democrat and Village Life, our sister paper that is distributed in El Dorado Hills.

When it is all said and done the amount of campaign advertising in the newspaper is generally not affected by the number of letters-to-the-editor space allowed for candidate endorsement letters. And we realize newspaper advertising is just one part of an overall winning campaign strategy.

So, we’re dropping our Wednesday-only rule for election letters. We’ll print them on Fridays and Mondays as well. They will, however be mixed in with letters on other topics. All endorsement letters all the time would be pretty boring. We aim to keep the letters section lively and topical, maybe even rattle a few cages. Lord knows, there are those who don’t agree with a particular editorial and let us know with a letter to the editor. We celebrate those differences. That’s what the letters to the editor are for — an open forum. And the letters are proving to be much more exciting than the online comments, which have turned into a boring exchange of exclamation points between four to six regulars.

Also changed is our hard-and-fast rule that we only print one letter for and one against each candidate. Instead, we will strive for balance. But the facts have been that not every candidate’s supporters send in letters. Often a candidate will gripe that we are not printing his or her endorsement letters, but the reality is someone may have claimed they sent a letter just to get the candidate off his back and that person never really followed through with a letter. Happens all the time. Again, we promise to do our best to achieve balance.

There are two ways to efficiently get your endorsement letters or opposition letters to us. No. 1, scroll to the bottom of and you will find a grey slat that is labeled “Submission Forms.” Click on that and you will see a list with “Letters to the Editor” at the very top of the list. Click on that and you can submit your letter online. Your real name, community of residence and phone number are required. Your phone number will not show up in the printed letter, but your name and the city you live in will. Use that submission form and it shows up on editors’ screens and an alert goes to the editor and managing editor’s e-mail accounts.

A second method is to send an e-mail letter to Managing Editor Patrick Ibarra, who handles the letters to the editor.

Those are the two efficient and preferred ways to get letters to the editor to us, particularly electioneering letters.

If you send us a type-written letter that will slow to process and delay getting it in the computer. We don’t have typesetters anymore. If you give us a hand-written letter, that is going to get lower priority, and if it is a campaign letter, that is one whose chances of getting printed in the paper diminish the closer we get to the election. Did we mention, we don’t have typesetters?

Speaking of closer to the election, we will not run letters that air new charges on the Monday before a Tuesday election. That doesn’t mean we won’t track down a news story about some last-minute hit piece or other campaign scandal or controversy.

Here’s the bottom line. We will print election letters three days a week. Your best shot at getting your letter printed for and against your candidate — or on any other subject — is by using our online Letters to the Editor form. We will aim for balance. Regardless of who the paper endorses, balance in the campaign letters is important to us. But if nobody is writing endorsement letters for you, don’t blame the messenger.

Mountain Democrat

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