Each day, The Dispatch presents its Opinion page as a forum to interpret the news. We do that through a combination of editorial cartoons, columnists — both from staff and syndicated sources — and editorials, which represent the opinions of senior newsroom staff.
There is one other element of our Opinion page which is as important as any of the other features: Letters to the Editor.
Letters give readers the opportunity to voice their opinions. They sometimes correct our reporting, offer alternative perspectives and even highlight news that the paper has not covered.
Letters to the Editor are powerful. We have seen them lead to policy changes by local governments and spur grass-roots efforts.
We treasure the dialogues that are facilitated through Letters to the Editor and would like to see readers submit more of them.
An attempt is made to run every letter that is sent to us, yet over the past few years, many of our letters have turned into tit-for-tat attacks over national issues. For example, one letter will tout President Biden’s successes, and inevitably another which attacks Biden will follow.
We don’t believe these letters are productive. No one is going to change their opinion on gun control, abortion or immigration based on a Letter to the Editor. Such letters only serve to further polarize us.
Too often, letters on national politics are little more than a restatement of views expressed in national media forums, of which there is no shortage. Too often, these have become just another voice in the Greek Chorus of partisan or ideological dogma.
For these reasons, we will no longer run letters focused exclusively on national issues.
What happens in Washington certainly can affect us locally, and letters that effectively tie national issues to local ones are still welcomed. But the letters that focus exclusively on Trump-bashing or Biden-bashing, for example, will no longer be run.
We note, too, that we are looking for ways to apply a similar policy to the syndicated columnists whose work appears on the Opinion page. We are seeking for columnists focused on local and regional issues.
In implementing this change, we want to emphasize that The Dispatch continues to welcome Letters to the Editor. As has always been the case, with the exception of personal attacks, libelous statements or patently false claims, we will continue to provide letter-writers with great latitude in the subjects they wish to address. We just request that they address local or state-wide issues.
We hope this change will inspire letter-writers to focus more clearly on issues that are closest to us, the issues where a well-crafted, well-reasoned and informative letter may lead to real change or, failing that, better understanding.
We believe that this change will make our Opinion page more relevant and, as a result, more effective in bringing greater attention to the issues we encounter here at home.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.