We’re about two months out from the Nov. 7 general election — less than that before ballots go in the mail — so campaigning is about to begin in earnest. Road signs will proliferate, advertising will be scheduled, social media will heat up, personal appearances will fill calendar spots and public forums will be arranged.
Voters will be making, we hope, informed choices about the important races and complicated issues on the Nov. 7 ballot. Part of the public discussion traditionally has been a healthy stream of letters to the editor in local newspapers. We encourage our readers to contribute to that dialog over the next several weeks. We’d like nothing better than fill a page or two a week with letters from local people who have something to say.
With that in mind, it’s a good time to go over the guidelines for submitted letters to the Methow Valley News, with a few election-time codicils.
The basics still apply. Writers must be local, or have a past or current connection to the valley (former and part-time residents count). Letters are limited to 350 words. We enforce that out of fairness to all writers. If a letter is too long, we’ll send it back for a trim, or if you prefer we will judiciously edit it to fit by focusing on the main points.
As always, no personal attacks, no libelous content, no demonstrably false claims (for instance, that Biden won the 2020 election is a fact, and any claim to the contrary is false and won’t be printed). Vaccines are not part of a government conspiracy and climate change is not a hoax. Don’t waste your time or ours with that garbage.
Letters are typically printed in the order we receive them — in inventory terms, first in, first out. If we run out of room in a given week, leftover letters advance to the next issue with their priority intact. So sooner is always better.
We limit letter writers to one submission per month, and we start afresh next week. That means you have September and October to work with.
We don’t encourage, and likely won’t use over the next couple of months, what we call “ping pong” letters — writers going back and forth at each other over a number of weeks. We prefer that you write an original letter with your own thoughts, rather than try to rebut someone else’s.
We also are on the lookout for “astroturf” letters — identical or similar letters generated by campaigns or other organizations and sent out en masse to newspapers all over. They’re called astroturf because they are not genuine grass roots submissions.
During election season, we have some other rules, if you will. Candidates cannot submit letters to the editor or columns promoting themselves. We prefer that their supporters write letters of endorsement. Also, in the next few months, we won’t be giving “My Turn” space to proponents or opponents of issues, because that can turn into a quagmire about what is fair, and who is appropriate to represent a point of view. Whatever can be said in 750 words can still be well-expressed in 350 or less. If you don’t think so, we have two words for you: Gettysburg Address.
It’s obvious that the proposal to create a Methow Aquatics District is already a hot topic, one that has sometimes strayed off into tangential areas that don’t have much to do with the actual ballot proposal. We encourage writers to focus on that the ballot measure and its potential implications — which is the only thing being decided at this point. There are eloquent voices on both sides of the issue, and readers will be eager to hear them.
Of course, we’ll continue to publish letters on all topics of local interest, not just those related to the elections. We like to see a good mix.
Letters aren’t the only way that candidates or issues can have a presence in the paper. We will be covering all of the local candidate races, as well as the aquatics district proposal and the levy request to fund a new Three Rivers Hospital, with our own stories. Political advertising is eligible for the 15% nonprofit discount. There are special guidelines for the content of political ads that we adhere to, and they are standardized for most general circulation newspapers in the state.
Two months are going to go by more quickly than we can imagine. We hope you’ll make time to express yourself between now and Election Day.