So, it surprises me how few of you write to me to share your point of view. I’ve been a newspaper editor since 2002, and this is the first time I’ve encountered a town where its citizens have so much to say, yet so little to write. I’m missing your letters, and I’m guessing our readers are, too.
Maybe some of you never felt you had something important enough to say. Maybe you used to write, but something changed your mind and you stopped. I’m even guessing there are those of you out there who think the letters are only for whiners and complainers, and that’s just not your style.
Well, whatever your reason has been, I’m asking you to forget it, pick up a pen and drop me a line.
Actually, don’t pick up a pen (I’ll get to that in a moment). The days of needing to send something using stationary and a stamp are long gone. What’s not gone is the need for a way to let local voices be heard. In fact, it’s more important than ever.
There’s a lot of news in northeast Shelby County. If you live, work, grieve or grocery shop in here, you know that there are exciting things happening every day.
All of these things affect you in some way. But if you don’t tell people how you feel, how will anyone know what it is that you really want or need?
So, as your editor, I’m asking you to start doing just that. It doesn’t have to be hard, but I know some of you will find it intimidating. So, here are a few pointers to help you get started:
• Don’t worry about whether or not you think your letter is “good.” That’s so subjective. Just write from the heart.
• Pick just one topic each time you write, and focus on that only. Try to keep it short.
• Back up what you’re saying with some facts. If you’re going to praise, say why it’s great. If you’re going to criticize, say why it’s bad.
• Don’t hurt anyone else, or any businesses. Don’t try to sell something, either. These are big letter no-nos.
• Let someone else read it before you hit that send button.
And, of course, I do have a few rules. I won’t print your letter if you don’t tell me who you are. You also need to give me a way to reach you so that I know it was you who wrote it (don’t worry, your contact info is safe with me and won’t make it in the paper or online). I’m an editor, so if you misspell something or misplace a comma, I’m going to fix it. If you write me a letter telling me how much you hate your neighbor because he plays his music too loud, well, sorry, I’m not going to print that (and I won’t print your love letter, either). If you write me a form letter every week about the same thing, eventually I’m going to tell you that you can’t do that anymore. Tell me where you live or which group you represent, which I will print (Bartlett, Arlington, Lakeland, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.; no need to be more specific unless you want to). Finally, keep it under 300 words. More than that, people are less likely to read it anyway.
The rest is simple. E-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 p.m. Mondays for the best chance to get it in that week’s paper. But the sooner, the better. It’s first come, first served. If you don’t have a computer, can’t type and are just dying to say something, call me here at the office (901-433-9138) and I’ll work with you. Please don’t just drop off a handwritten letter at the last minute and think it’ll magically get it, although even then, I’ll try.
And if you read this far, remember: The only opinion that doesn’t matter is the one that’s never heard.
So, go tell us how y’all feel! I can’t wait to read what you write.