One of the best measures of a community newspaper’s readership is how many local letters to the editor it receives.
Sometimes it is possible to have too much of a good thing, however.
Last week we had 12 local letters to the editor ready to go into the paper.
Not surprisingly, they didn’t all make it in.
Also perhaps not surprisingly, we then received a couple of complaints from letter writers unhappy that their messages had not been printed.
We did try. Our plan had been to print more letters on what we call the spill page – the page in the newspaper after the classifieds section.
The available space on the spill page expands or contracts, depending on the number of classified ads we receive.
We had though it would be pretty well empty and we could get quite a few letters on it. Then we got a few more ads plus a couple of obituaries, and there was no space left at all.
Please believe that if we run somebody else’s letter and not yours, it is not part of some underhanded conspiracy. We’re not that smart plus we don’t really have time for that kind of thing.
Letters that present a different point of view get priority over letters that say the same thing as we read last week. Preference also goes to letter writers who we haven’t heard from lately, as compared to those who write frequently.
And, in the final analysis and if all else is about equal, if one letter gets in and another does not, it likely was because that first letter fit the space available – shorter almost always is better.
People should not view a letter to the editor as a substitute for a paid advertisement.
We have no problem with people using letters to the editor to promote worthwhile community events.
If you plan to make money at the event, however, then the newspaper expects to get a part of that money through advertising revenue.
Don’t forget that we have special rates for non-profit groups, plus we often give further discounts or even sponsor ads entirely.
The bottom line is, if you want to make sure your upcoming event gets in the newspaper, then don’t rely on a letter to the editor – put some money up and buy an ad.