News letters policy is unclear and arbitrary

We are vainly, and unsuccessfully, trying to navigate the murky letters policy of the Alpena News, a policy, like Maoist wall posters in the 70s, understood only vaguely and in pieces.

What we understand (we think):

1.) Letters may not attack private individuals. This seems overbroad and capriciously enforced. To wit, our view is that anything appearing in the paper over a signature — editorial, news article, letter — is fair game. This would include content from “private individuals.” (We recall being told that a letter savaging a signed guest column might not be run because it attacked a private individual. But this was a “private” individual who had content run in the paper over her name). Further, we routinely see letters denigrating other correspondents. (There’s a lot of name-calling in the letters column. It’s fatiguing). If the paper is going to permit this, where is the line?

2.) We are told that letters may not attack local businesses. This is counterintuitive. If one knows of poor service or products, other readers likely will benefit from one’s sharing this information. Alternatively, other readers could come to the defense of the business, if so inclined. In any case, how do we expect things to improve if we don’t point out perceived deficits and flaws?

Perhaps the editorial board of the paper could delineate the policy, so that those of us inclined to engage with the paper and its content (whether out of a sense of masochism or as some sort of Quixotic gesture, or what have you) will know what to expect to be permitted, or not. Until then, we continue to write, half-blind, not expecting our letters to run and always pleasantly surprised when they do.




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